New Auburn head football coach Bryan Harsin is almost done assembling his inaugural staff. Seven assistants have been officially announced and buzz is building that at least two more should be filled within the next 48 hours. With only a limited amount of time remaining before National Signing Day in February, Harsin likely wants to wrap things up and get his guys on the recruiting trail.
Here’s Auburn’s 2021 coaching staff as of today:
- Head Coach: Bryan Harsin
- Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks - Mike Bobo
- Running Backs - Carnell Williams
- Tight Ends - Brad Bedell
- Offensive Line - Will Friend
- Defensive Coordinator - Derek Mason
- Run Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers - Jeff Schmedding
- Cornerbacks - Zac Etheridge
Auburn still needs to name coaches to handle wide receivers, defensive line, outside linebackers, safeties and special teams. Obviously that’s more positions than spots available so expect some positions to handle multiple duties. Here’s a rundown on what we know about Auburn’s remaining open coaching positions.
For much of this search, two names have been considered the top contenders: Bryan McClendon and Darrell Wyatt. McClendon has worked previously with Mike Bobo and is an elite recruiter. Wyatt is a coaching veteran with 25+ years of experience and is currently serving as UCF’s wideouts coach. McClendon is probably the stronger recruiter while Wyatt has a stronger history developing WR talent.
But over the past 48 hours, two more names have emerged.
First there’s Tennessee’s passing game coordinator and wide receiver’s coach Tee Martin. The former national championship winning QB for the Tennessee Volunteers has developed into one of the nation’s best recruiters. However, he’s currently coaching on a staff that is in the middle of an NCAA maelstrom. Odds aren’t good that Jeremy Pruitt survives so Martin is probably open to a more stable coaching opportunity. If Auburn feels confident Martin doesn’t have a role in the current NCAA investigation in Knoxville, he could be heading to the Plains.
The other one came as a major surprise to me. Per AuburnUndercover’s Phillip Marshall, former Auburn QB Dameyune Craig could be contemplating a return to his alma mater. Craig served as Auburn’s wide receivers coach for Gus Malzahn from 2013 to 2015. It was a rocky relationship and ended with Craig taking a gig at LSU. He only lasted in Baton Rouge for one season before reconnecting with his long time mentor Jimbo Fisher in College Station.
Without question, Craig is a big time recruiter. He’s also one of my all time favorite Auburn players. But it wasn’t the most cordial of endings when he initially left the Plains. I am skeptical Craig would be interested leaving Jimbo’s staff again for Auburn but crazier things have happened.
There’s also the long shot chance Kodi Burns is retained. This would be the most surprising result to me and would likely mean Auburn missed on some other candidates in my opinion. Still, Burns has been a solid recruiter for the Tigers and if he nails an interview (ala Carnell Williams) then he could stick around for awhile longer.
The position with the least amount of clarity is the defensive line. Heading into this week, only 2 names had been credibly linked to the Tigers: Brick Haley and Spencer Danielson. There’s been nothing about Haley since Phillip Marshall’s initial report and Danielson now is expected to remain in Boise on Andy Avalos’s staff.
That leaves things pretty wide open.
Recently, there’s been buzz that Auburn might be making a hire out of the NFL ranks. Two names immediately jump out given their previous success in the collegiate ranks. Marion Hobby was recently let go by the Miami Dolphins. He was on Dabo Swinney’s staff from 2011 until 2016. An elite coach and solid recruiter, Hobby would be a big time hire for Harsin.
The other obvious name is Tosh Lupoi. He spent time in the PAC-12 before becoming an ace recruiter on Nick Saban’s staff. This past season he was the Falcons DL coach and run game coordinator. He’d likely take the recruiting coordinator role for the Tigers if he were to join the staff. However, I suspect if he returns to the collegiate ranks he’s going to want to at least be a Co-DC. I am not sure that would happen at Auburn.
Per AuburnSports Jay G Tate, former Ole Miss assistant turned Cleveland Browns DL coach Chris Kiffin is a name that has popped up. Kiffin was part of Hugh Freeze’s staff at Ole Miss where he helped reel in 5-stars Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Benito Jones. He also landed a 2 year show cause from the NCAA after his tenure in Oxford so I wonder if Auburn would be comfortable bringing him in on staff.
Rodney Garner could also be retained but given how things have unfolded in recent weeks, I’d be very surprise to see that happen.
Of the three remaining positions, I expect this one will take the longest to fill given the apparent interest in NFL candidates and the lack of a clear front runner, at least publicly.
I think if Travis Williams remains on staff, something that feels more likely than it did a few days ago, this will be his position group.
Bryan Harsin elected to put his former DC in charge of Williams’s position group but the designation of “Inside Linebackers Coach” made it clear he and Derek Mason wanted to use three coaches in the front 7. This would likely entail coaching weak side pass rushers and strong side field backers. It would be an interesting assignment for T-WILL but one I wouldn’t be surprised to see him excel at.
Al Pogue could also fit in here if he were retained. He was hired to coach BUCKs this past season and if Harsin thinks he’s a good fit maybe he continues his work at this position.
There’s also the possibility that the defensive line coach handles both duties. I think that’s unlikely but if the new coach were someone like Lupoi, you could give him that level of responsibility to help justify joining the staff.
As of today though I expect Derek Mason to coach the safeties and for there to be a specific coach handling outside linebackers. I also think there’s a very good chance it’s an Auburn fan favorite.