You win some, you lose some, I always say (or... as someone always says).
Auburn lost one this week as Marcus Woodson went back to his old boss Mike Norvell and left Auburn with a recruiting coordinator sized hole in the coaching staff. His expertise into the deep Mississippi high school territory earned the Tigers a few good targets and additions to the roster, and now he’ll be doing the same things at Florida State. His work with the defensive backs over the past couple of seasons was also commendable, but in the end we can always chalk that success up to the guy truly in charge.
While Woodson is gone, his boss Kevin Steele will be on the Plains for at least the next three years to the tune of $2.5 million per year.
Sources tell ESPN that Kevin Steele’s new 3-year deal as @AuburnFootball’s defensive coordinator will pay him $2.5 million per year, making him the highest-paid DC in college football. Tigers have finished top 20 nationally in scoring D each of Steele’s four seasons at Auburn.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) January 23, 2020
He’s been on staff since the start of the 2016 season, and if you remember his first game, his tenure started on the right note. Auburn shut down Deshaun Watson and the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers, allowing just 19 points and holding Watson to a 121 QB rating. Auburn finished 7th in the nation in scoring defense in 2016 after coming in 76th the year before. His impact was immediate and evident. While the offense has struggled over the past two seasons, Auburn still won 17 games thanks in large part to the defensive success.
The price tag? Yeah, that’s a lot of money for a coordinator. He’s now the highest paid assistant in the country, ahead of plenty of head coaches — 10 FBS Power Five coaches to be exact — but he’s in charge of essentially half of the team. According to USA Today’s database of FBS coach salaries, he’s making the same as Mike Locksley, head coach at Maryland.
When you look at some of the salaries (this is from the 2019 season) you can pretty confidently say that Steele’s impact on Auburn was more impactful than quite a few head coaches. Chad Morris was making $4 million a year at Arkansas. Charlie Strong and Scott Frost were both making $5 million per year at USF and Nebraska. He’s got a good staff, but we’re going to need to find a new piece to plug and play with some of the solid defensive back talent that we found this past recruiting season.
With Woodson’s departure, there comes the list of possibilities to replace him. We touched on his recruiting acumen above, but it was vast.
Per 247, Marcus Woodson had a role in recruiting eight different consensus 4-star prospects to Auburn during his two years there.— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) January 22, 2020
He opened doors by landing several MS players, along with others outside the AL-GA-FL footprint. The Tigers will have some big shoes to fill there.
If Auburn’s looking for a new recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach, a couple of names stand out. First, there’s Al Pogue, who was a member of the staff to bridge the Chizik to Malzahn gap. He was head of high school relations in 2013, and has coached high school in Montgomery since then. Other than him, Addison Williams, who’s currently on staff as an analyst and assistant to Malzahn, would be a solid target. Finally, we could just grab Zac Etheridge, safety stalwart on the 2010 national championship team and he’d add yet another Auburn alum to the roster of coaches. Currently, Etheridge is at Houston, after stints at Louisiana, WCU, Georgia Tech, and Penn State. He’s been making the rounds coaching since his time at Auburn, and he’d be a guy who might have to hear mama callin’ him home.
Either way, Auburn secured the most important target in Steele, as there were some powers sniffing around after losing coordinators (cough cough LSU cough cough). He’ll have major input into this hire, and I’d trust him with the job offer. Auburn just put 2.5 million reasons to trust him on the table.