Todd Van Emst
Gus Malzhan made his first hires in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Malzahn reportedly won't bring back Trooper Taylor.
The Gus Malzahn era at Auburn has jumped out to a fast start, as the Tigers have officially hired Ellis Johnson as defensive coordinator and Rhett Lashlee as offensive coordinator. Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, Auburn's primary recruiter under Gene Chizik, has reportedly been let go ($).
Johnson was the head coach at Southern Miss in 2012, compiling an 0-12 record in his only season with the Golden Eagles. Despite his awful head coaching record, Johnson is still regarded as a great defensive mind, having spent time as coordinator at several stops, including Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
"Ellis is one of the top defensive minds in all of college football. He is very experienced and has tremendous success coaching in the Southeastern Conference," Malzahn said. "He is a man of integrity who will be a great ambassador for Auburn. We're very pleased to have him join our staff and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program."
"I'm very fortunate for the opportunity to coach at Auburn and return to the Southeastern Conference, where there is so much tradition and history," Johnson said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gus Malzahn, both as a man and a coach, and I really look forward to working for him. Auburn has a wonderful family environment and is a great community, which is a blessing for me and my family. This is truly a home run for me. I can't wait to get started and I'm ready to go to work."
Lashlee is a name many outside of Auburn may not know, but Tigers fans will be familiar with him. The new offensive coordinator was a graduate assistant under Malzahn at Auburn in 2009 and '10 before moving on to Samford as offensive coordinator. He reunited with Malzahn in the same capacity when Malzahn was hired as Arkansas State head coach last season.
Lashlee is young, but if anyone is going to run Auburn's offense the way Malzahn wants it to be run, it will be the Tigers' new OC.
"Rhett is one of the best young offensive minds in college football," said Malzahn. "I've been with Rhett a long time and he's been an incredibly valuable right-hand man. He has a great knowledge and understanding of Auburn and will be a tremendous asset for this program both on and off the field."
"We're very excited to be back in Auburn to rejoin this program and the Auburn family, which has the best fans in the country" Lashlee said. "I'm looking forward to working with Coach Malzahn and help get this team headed in the right direction and return to winning football. Auburn holds a special place in my family's heart, as this is where our twin boys were born, so we are blessed to be back. I'm excited to get to work."
In addition to the official announcements of Johnson and Lashlee Friday Morning, AuburnSports.com's Jay G. Tate reported that Malzahn will not retain wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor. Taylor has been a controversial figure at Auburn, being responsible for connecting with many of the Tigers' biggest recruits, but also being seen as playing fast and loose with NCAA rules. With Taylor gone, Malzahn and his new staff must quickly make a connection with Auburn's current commitments, or the class of 2013 could fall apart.
One thing is clear: for those that were worried the Malzahn hire would result in a continuation of the old regime at Auburn, the Tigers' new coach is easing those fears.