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Auburn New Coaching Hires – Just What Tigers Need to Restore Program

By on December 26th, 2012 in Football 16 Comments »
bilde - MSU's Melvin Smith

With the Christmas Day announcement of the hiring of Melvin Smith as the cornerbacks coach at Auburn, new Head Coach Gus Malzahn has completed his defensive coaching staff and appears to be making the right moves for his stated goal of “restoring the program to championship level football.”

Smith is a 30 year coaching veteran including stints at Alabama and Texas A&M. Malzahn hired him away from Mississippi State where he spent the last seven years coaching cornerbacks and helping develop one of the best secondary’s in the country. In addition he was a semifinalist in 2011 for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

“We’re excited to have Melvin join our staff,” Malzahn said. “He is an outstanding secondary coach and is one of the top recruiters in the Southeastern Conference. He has a reputation for his ability to develop players and his 31-year coaching resume speaks for itself.

Smith has been responsible for developing all conference players as well as sending several to the professional ranks. He mentored All- American Jonathan Banks who won the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

This past season, the MSU defense led the SEC with 30 takeaways, which was good enough for 12th place nationally. Darius Slay, a second-team All-SEC pick, finished tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with five, while Banks was tied for third in the league with four. In 2009, the Bulldog secondary led the SEC with 17 interceptions. And Smith’s 2000 secondary  intercepted the second-most passes (19) in school history.

Thus far, Malzahn has filled six of the nine positions on his staff. On the offensive side, he still needs to hire coaches for wide receivers, tight ends, and  running backs. In addition, someone will need to be named as the special teams coordinator.

For a coach that has made his reputation as an offensive mind, Gus Malzahn’s defensive hires have proven he is pretty savvy about what it takes to field a good defense.

Everyone of the new coaches come to Auburn with impressive resumes. They are all great hires but the one that has probably excited the most people has been the return of former Auburn great Rodney Garner as Assistant Head Coach, Recruiting Coordinator, and Defensive Line Coach.

Known as one of the best recruiters in college football, he is also one of the most widely respected Assistant coaches in the SEC.

Several times in the past decade various schools and NFL teams have tried unsuccessfully to lure Garner away from Athens. Yet Malzahn’s was able to convince the UGA Assistant Head Coach to join him on The Plains.

Rodney said it had to do with two things. One is the opportunity to work with Malzahn and be a part of restoring greatness to the Auburn program. The other, in his words, is because. “I’m an Auburn Man … I probably wouldn’t leave Georgia if it wasn’t for Auburn (but) I bleed Orange and Blue and my school needs me.”

Now that Gus has filled out his defensive staff, look for him to have the entire staff in place by New Year’s and ready to hit the ground running after the dead period on recruiting ends January 3rd.

One of those three offensive hires could come today. The most prevalent name in the  rumor mill is Arkansas Running backs Coach, Tim Horton. He has also coached wide receivers before and could be hired to fill that spot.

Horton would  seem to fit the mold that Malzahn has established with his first six hires, coaches that have reputations for four things – a proven record of: character, discipline, recruiting, and player development.  And that’s just what the Tigers need to restore the program to its familiar place among the league’s best.

16 Comments

  1. aubb says:

    i must admit that the day malzahn was hired i was only satisfied. im excited now, he has made some great hires and im really glad he is plucking a few choice jucos…

    • beezybub beezybub says:

      I wasn’t even excited.. to be honest.. I was disappointed with the hire. but as I look back at it now.. I can’t wait for football to start on the Plains again.. He has done a fantastic job. WDE

  2. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    I think we are about to see something special take place on The Plains. Nearly all of the pieces are already in place.

  3. autgr4life says:

    I think Gus is doing an outstanding job putting together a staff at AU. From EJ down I think we will have one of the most experienced and best defensive staffs in the SEC. All of these guys are in the top five at their respective positions in the SEC and together should make for an awesome defensive coaching staff. However I must admit that with all the talented coaches coming on board it is going to be hard to temper my expectations. I need to keep telling myself that these same kids went 3 – 9 last year and really struggled through all aspects of the game, so to expect a miraculous season is not fair to the kids or to Gus.

    If Gus can recruit kids to come to Auburn and play the same way he has recruited coaches the future is extremely bright for Auburn and in a couple of years we should be competing for the top price once again.

    War Damn Eagle!!

  4. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    Can we play football tomorrow since we missed out this year?! Can’t wait this long………

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      I agree with you actually. It feels like we just wasted a season after all of that. It was such a painful time. You can tell that Gus sold Garner on the fact that Auburn needed him now. He let him know that Auburn is in a bad situation and that it would take great Auburn men to build our beloved institution back to what it was not long ago. The fall was so fast. The rise will be quick but let us never forget this painful 2012 season when things aren’t going well. I don’t think Gus will ever go 3-9 while at Auburn.

  5. CapnVegetto says:

    I have to play devil’s advocate here:

    Bear in mind, Gene Chizik made some great hires when he started, too. We were all just as excited then.

    Thing went very well for Gene for 2 years, until he started interfering. I certainly hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Gus. I don’t think it will, though. Gus has a major thing that Chizik didn’t have: a winning record.

    I still say keep the expectations tempered. We were 3-9 last year, and could very easily have been 2-10 maybe even 1-11. These same kids were flat out losers last year. It’s going to take quite a while to fix the problems that have occurred in this program. To me, Gus gets a free pass next year, even if we’re 0-12, as long as I see one thing: IMPROVEMENT. Improvment is something I never saw in 4 years of Chizik. I never watched a game, even in 2010, and got excited about the future. In 2010 I was sure we were going to lose most of the time, until Cam would bail us out with an amazing play on 3rd and long or something like that. I want to get that feeling back to where even if we lose at the beginning of the year, we’ll be one of those teams that NOBODY wants to play towards the end of the year, and jumping up and down with excitement about next year.

    If we get to a bowl next year, I think Gus has done a hell of a job. But I’m not expecting the moon quick. I’m expecting to field a competitive team, nothing more. I hope people don’t start screaming if we lose a few games at the beginning of the year.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Only problem I have with this analysis Capt V is that Gene really only had one or two big time recruiters. And they were on the offensive side of the ball. Luper and Taylor were it.

      Take a gander at Gus’s staff. You got to start drooling with the recruiting talent here… and again, so far, on one side of the ball. All DEFENSE. Ellis Johnson, Charlie Harbinson, Rodney Garner and now this cat from MSU.

      If he can bring the same kind of talent to the offensive side of the ball… hell. I think AU might see a dramatic turn around.

      And as to AU’s record… that rests solely on Chizik in my opinion. When he is gone, it allows for the this team to restart.

      Do I expect to win it all next year? No way.

      But can we compete? Yes.

      And right now… after this season, I just want a team that can compete.

      Let the chips fall where they may…

      WDE

  6. mikeautiger says:

    We sometimes forget Malzhan won Championships I HS, championships are still won on defense. He must have understood it then and his staff hiring shows he understand more than offense. He appears to be well rounded. I was good with his hire and I get a littleore excited everyday as I see his approach. There is a lot more to Malzhan than offense, he is a winner.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Doug Barefield was a winner in high school. Still, I think you are right… Malzahn is getting some of the best talent available on that side of the ball. I think he has hit a home run. Now he has to round out his coaching staff. He needs some great talent on the offensive side the ball too.

      I always say, with folks who used to be prior staff folks… they learn from their former boss. Chizik learned from Tuberville. I think Gus learned from Chizik. Sooner or later we get it right…

      WDE

  7. AUnMobile AUnMobile says:

    I love all the Defensive hires. Sound Defensive minds old enough to coach and not be the young men friends when it’s time to put in the hard work Sunday- Friday to reap the benefits on Saturday! WDE!!!

  8. rn4au rn4au says:

    Gus is a workaholic by all accounts, I can’t see him letting the hard work slack Sun-Fri! He seems determined to get Auburn back on track. I think the jury is still out on whether he can get us turned around (I believe he can). A big question in my eyes is what will he have to work with? The cubbard is reportedly not bare, but if we have a bunch of prima donna slackers then it may be leaner than we think. Let’s give Gus and his new team some time, but I expect that we will not have to give them that long.

  9. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Combine the defense coaching with Malzahn’s HUNH offense and Auburn should be back sooner than most expect. I can hardly wait. How long till A-day?

  10. [...] “Now that Gus has filled out his defensive staff, look for him to have the entire staff in pla… [...]

  11. DBAU81 says:

    Gus has made some solid moves so far. He has his work cut out for him. Hopefully the offseason program and spring practice will be focused as much on changing the mindset and the culture of the program, and restoring some discipline and accountability, as on the X’s and O’s. In that regard, Gus was wise not to retain any of the old coaching staff, even though it was a shame that Yox and Boulware had to be let go. As a friend of mine pointed out, once the members of the old staff had lost the respect of the players, even if it was the result of being undermined by Chizik, it would have been very difficult for Gus to come in and tell the players that they now had to start paying attention to those same coaches again.

    Capt. V is correct that we should temper our expectations. In 2013, more than any particular won-loss record, we should be looking for the effort and attitude that demonstrates that it means something for these players to represent Auburn, plus improvement from the beginning of the season through the end – which will be a sign that this coaching staff, unlike the last, is able to develop talent. If we see those things, we can be reasonably optimistic that we’re on our way back.