Gus Malzahn has his own brand of the old BBQ Buddies, but this latest hire goes outside the box of a normal Gus hire as Jack Bicknell Jr. becomes Auburn’s next offensive line coach.
Bicknell has extensive experience, spending his entire adult life in coaching after graduating from Boston College, where he was a pivotal part of Doug Flutie’s Heisman Trophy win in 1984. He was even on the field for one of the most famous plays of all time —
Bicknell’s been a purveyor of the offensive line since playing for his dad at BC. He began his career coaching at New Hampshire as the defensive line coach before switching sides of the ball, and then moved to Louisiana Tech in 1997. He parlayed that gig into the head job at La Tech, but then went to his alma mater to run the offensive line there in 2007.
After spending seven seasons in the NFL, he returned to college and led the Ole Miss offensive line from 2017-2019, and he’s been able to churn out NFL quality offensive linemen at nearly every stop.
Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus at BC, Rod Taylor, Greg Little, and Javon Patterson at Ole Miss — there’s a solid history of talent under Bicknell. One of the main things, however, that Bicknell will be bringing to the table, is technique and attention to detail. Check out this article from 2013 when he was hired to coach OL in Pittsburgh.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had this to say about Bicknell’s coaching at Kansas City that drew his attention:
“The proof is in the pudding,” said Tomlin. “When I had an opportunity to look, not only at what he says from a presentation standpoint but also at what the tape looks like, it was attractive. Obviously they were in a tough situation this past year in Kansas City from a team standpoint. Their record reflects that. They had some instability at the quarterback position, but they ran the ball and they ran the ball consistently.”
If you watched the Auburn run game over the past couple of years, that’s music to your ears. Auburn’s biggest struggle offensively was the lack of a run game. With some help in 2018 in that regard, we likely see another ten-win season with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, and a better running game may even get Auburn an extra 2-3 wins this past year as well. Definitely victories over LSU and Georgia, where Bo Nix was left out to dry with no help in those areas.
Bicknell knows what it takes to play in the NFL as well. He’s going to have a perspective that not many coaches on Auburn’s sideline can provide. Kodi, T-Will, Rodney, Cadillac... these are guys that don’t have a ton of experience with the NFL. Bicknell can reach out to get a new view and add another dynamic to Auburn’s staff as far as a recruiter and developer of talent. Speaking of recruiting, you may say that he’s more of a northeast/NFL guy, but the majority of his college coaching came right here in the south... particularly close to the Louisiana/Texas area. If LSU’s recent push is any sort of indication, Auburn would do well to try to make some more inroads in those areas to tap into the talent.
Overall, this is a hire that nobody expected. It’s definitely not a Gus hire, and it’s definitely not a name that appeared on the short list. However, on the surface, it appears to be pretty solid. Auburn needs to get back to what they did well in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017... running the ball... and Bicknell seems like he might be the guy to help our 2020 offensive line get back into the swing of things.