The past week has been a whole lot of "will he go? will he stay?" in regards to Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Now the answer is much more solid. It appears that after one season, the Double Boom experiment at Auburn is over. Will Muschamp is expected to be the next head coach at South Carolina.
This is certainly not the manner we hoped or expected this to come about. We thought Auburn would compete for a championship of some form and hoped that if it all ended after a single season, then it was because Muschamp's defense performed so well.
It's not like the defense was horrible in 2015. Not by any stretch, actually. They were actually showing a big improvement by the year's end. Sure, the overall numbers come out worse, but WarRoom Eagle did a good job of showing how the defense was really starting to get back on track.
The 1st half of 2014, AU's defense wasn't bad, sometimes even good. It was the last half that ruined everything. pic.twitter.com/1bsEHCvTyZ— War Rudolph Eagle (@WarRoomEagle) December 3, 2015
In 2015, it was bad in the first half and improved as the season went along. Trendlines, people! pic.twitter.com/4s1r1fhGiv— War Rudolph Eagle (@WarRoomEagle) December 3, 2015
This does a little bit to show why it's misleading to think Muschamp wasn't doing good things with Auburn's defense. The defense struggled early on in the season, but it was most definitely improving.
So where does Auburn turn to, now? Well, I suggested some candidates the other day when the news really began to sound more certain that Muschamp may leave. I still hold to some of those. Phillip Marshall from Auburn Undercover has some ideas, as well. That article is a day or so old, now, but it still holds.
Let's list them here, anyway, though. In order of my personal opinion (and it's just that: opinion), here are the likely targets based on the names I've heard or just made up on my own who should be targets:
1) Travaris Robinson, Auburn DB Coach. Is it risky? Absolutely. However, Robinson has worked with Muschamp for a long time. He's also an extremely talented coach in how own right along with being a stellar recruiter. Robinson could provide some stability and also help make sure Auburn doesn't lose recruits over the whole situation. He will likely be the first choice. Will he take it or will he follow Muschamp to South Carolina?
2) Charles Kelly, FSU Defensive Coordinator. Word is he was the #2 choice this time last season. He's only being paid $500k by FSU, so Auburn could offer him a raise and still cut the budget based on what it was paying Will Muschamp. Money isn't the only thing that may entice Kelly, though. He's a former Auburn football player. Could he resist if Momma came calling?
3) Jeremy Pruitt, former UGA Defensive Coordinator. I'd be shocked by this one, but it definitely seems to have some traction. Almost enough that I'd put him higher on the list. It wouldn't be a bad idea by any stretch, either. Pruitt has experience facing Malzahn's offenses. He also has a pretty good track record of defending against them. He could help show Malzahn what he saw and strengthen the offense along with the defense.
4) Lance Thompson, Auburn LB Coach. Phillip Marshall mentioned him, but I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I guess I'd take it, but if we're going to promote from within I really hope it's Robinson. That's assuming T-Rob doesn't head to Maryland or follow Muschamp.
5) Tracy Rocker, former (?) Georgia DL coach. Would Auburn bring Rock back and give him the reins? Probably not. But I wouldn't be against it.
6) Don Brown, Boston College DC. I haven't seen anyone in the media suggest this one, but given how strong BC's defense was this season, I wouldn't be opposed to gauging his interest. I'm more than certain Auburn could offer him more money than BC.
7) Craig Kuligowski, Mizzou DL Coach. Have you seen Mizzou's DLs? They've been good. He might be worth the shot just for the help on the defensive line. Missouri has often had good to great defenses, and Kuligowski is one of the constants on that side of the ball for the other Tigers.
8) Phillip Lolley, Former Auburn DB Coach. Yes, I'm serious. I'd go into more reasons why, but the stuff I've read is still behind a paywall. It would not shock me if Lolley winds up back on the Plains in some capacity, though. He's an excellent DB coach. He and T-Rob coaching the DBs together could be absolutely deadly.
Other Staff Changes?
Where do we go from here with the rest of the staff? You can bet there's going to be turnover and changes. There are still some head jobs out there that some of Auburn's coaches could be up for.
There hasn't been any official word, obviously. I'm not against Rhett Lashlee staying around, though I'd personally rather see Dameyune Craig take on the QBs. If Lashlee does stay, I really hope he and Gus work out an actual system for play calling. Right now, from what I've read, it seems like they just do it on who feels better about a play, or something along those lines. I really would like to see a more concrete plan. With Gus possibly on the hot seat in 2016 it's unlikely he would turn all play calling over to Lashlee.
You can be sure we'll report on further staff changes as they happen. Or not, if they don't. For now, it's time for Auburn to find a new defensive coordinator. Again. For the fifth time in six years. That's why I'm most on board with Travaris Robinson right now. It would be nice to not have to change too much.