Could our question of just who will be Auburn's next defensive coordinator be answered soon? Gus Malzahn definitely thinks so, according to what he told the media, yesterday. According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, a source indicated that Gus Malzahn plans on hiring a coordinator "before the end of the week."
So, does that tell us anything about who the hire may be? It could if you believe that the coach is currently coaching a team that still has a bowl game to play. Of the candidates mentioned in some way, shape, form, or fashion over the last few weeks, there are some whose season is finished and some who are still yet to play in a bowl game.
Below are some names I've read associated with the job either through articles written or other message board hints. I'm trying to stay away from posting pay-walled information. Thankfully many posters on those pay sites are considerate enough to start thread titles about names that give away article content enough that I can write my own thoughts on the names that have been mentioned most, lately. There are articles on most every Auburn pay site about each of these.
Tom Allen, South Florida Defensive Coordinator. Last week plenty of people around Auburn thought for sure that Tom Allen was set to be named the defensive coordinator shortly following his team's bowl game against Western Kentucky. Allen was asked about it following the game, but deflected the question. As time passed and he wasn't named, the likelihood of Allen being named the DC slipped. Now it seems most believe he's not the answer. I'm not ruling him out just yet, though. Perhaps Gus just wants to talk to a few other people, first. If there's one certainty in this whole process it's that no one but Gus seems to know exactly what Gus' process is.
Ted Roof, Georgia Tech Defensive Coordinator. Yep. Ted Roof's name is being mentioned. Before you jump off a cliff, remember that he does have a BCS Championship ring. Also consider that Roof has been a pretty good coordinator for a large part of his career. Gene Chizik meddled in Roof's defenses at Auburn much more than he meddled in Gus' offense. He just told Gus to go slow. He had a big hand in creating a hybrid defensive style (he and Roof are not the same when it comes to their defenses) that messed with Roof's plans. Gus worked with Roof and knows what kind of coach he is.
Still Bowl Game to Play
Todd Grantham, Louisville Defensive Coordinator. If there's a name on this list that I'm REALLY not a fan of, it's this one. Grantham has not been a bad defensive coordinator - far from it, his defense was 6th in 2014 total defense and 14th this year - but I just don't like his personality. I remember him making the choking gesture at Florida, and his other confrontations. As far as coaching goes, he's great and would be a home run. When it comes to him as a person? Not so much. Of course, I'm judging that off a very few actions, so maybe he's learned, gotten better, or those were just aberrations. If he has, then I'll for him based on his coaching record.
Manny Diaz, Mississippi State Defensive Coordinator. Diaz is one of the few coaches who have done a pretty good job at slowing Gus Malzahn down when he takes on the Tigers. Of course, there are other factors involved with that. In 2010 when Auburn played Mississippi State, Gus hadn't figured out what to do with Cam Newton. In 2014 at San Jose State, Auburn had more talent. This year, there was Sean White in his very first game (and red zone issues). He did have the 33rd ranked defense in 2014 at San Jose State, though, and brought Mississippi State up from 86th to 56th, this year.
Charles Kelly, Florida State Defensive Coordinator. Yes, this ship has most likely sailed and is on the other side of the world, right now, but I wouldn't be shocked if Gus hasn't or won't reach out to him one last time before the final hire is made. He's already reached out to him a lot. What's one last quiet "you sure you don't want it...?" I'd say the odds of this happening are less than 1%, though. Plus we'll likely never know for sure if it did or didn't happen.
Is there a possible NFL name out there? I have not heard in any way that there is, but then again no one really knows anything about this coaching search. Many NFL teams will have their seasons end this weekend. Those won't end until Sunday, though, so that wouldn't fit in with the "before the end of the week" statement.
Final Thoughts on the Search
In spite of what some seem to think, I don't think this search has been a "fiasco." I mainly believe that because of one key thing: all we can do is assume we know anything about how this search has gone. No one really knows except Gus Malzahn.
How often do you hear word of coaches interviewing for jobs or who some coaches are targeting? FootballScoop.com is usually on the ball about almost every single major vacancy and who those schools are targeting. When it comes to Auburn, there has been little to no information out there.
Gus Malzahn has not let anyone know what he's thinking or who he's talking to. We know/suspect he's talked to Bob Shoop at Penn State. We know he talked to Charles Kelly. Both of those have great jobs at places their families are happy at and plenty of reasons to stay at their current job. Is it a "fiasco" if they turned Auburn down? No.
So Gus probably interviewed Tom Allen. He's probably interviewed a lot of people. Those people currently have jobs elsewhere and are probably very thankful Gus hasn't been leaking the information that they've interviewed or had discussions with someone else. Tom Allen may still end up being the man chosen for all we know.
The only real certainty in this whole search is that the only person who actually knows what's going on is Gus Malzahn. We can't judge the process when we know nothing of what that process has been. When the outcome is revealed, then you can make a judgement on it all. Even then we're not ever likely to know everyone who discussed the job with Gus.
Hopefully this all ends very soon and Auburn has a new defensive coordinator. Since we're still in a dead period for recruiting, it's not as essential that Gus rush to make a hire. It's more important that he does his due diligence and gets the right man rather than rush to take someone because they're available first.