StatTiger: Looking For Defensive Improvement

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) writes about the impact Auburn's new defensive coordinator can have on the football Tigers.

Auburn's hiring of Brian VanGorder as the new defensive coordinator is arguably the biggest hire at this position during the recent history of the program when you consider his past accomplishments before arriving on the Plains.

Coach Gene Chizik had previously hinted he might look for a defensive coordinator with NFL experience and he found that in the Coach VanGorder. He will bring plenty of experience with stops at five different collegiate programs as a defensive coordinator.

VanGorder will also bring recruiting and coaching experience at the Southeastern Conference level as well. He began his coaching career in 1981 at the high school level, landing his first college job in 1989 at Grand Valley State.

Many high school recruits are looking for an opportunity to play in the NFL and Auburn now has a defensive coordinator with experience in that league, which becomes a valid selling point when it comes to recruiting.

VanGorder brings the hard nose, high-energy personality many defensive recruits thrive under with successful results during the past decade. He clearly fits the type of coach Chizik was searching for and the Auburn football team, as well as its defensive recruits, should be better because of it.

The 2012 season will mark Brian VanGorder's 17th at the collegiate level with his most notable previous stop at the University of Georgia. During his four-year run as the Bulldogs' coordinator, Georgia fielded one of the top defenses in the nation. All four of his UGA teams finished in the Top 20 in scoring defense and run defense.

It should be noted that Auburn has finished in the Top 30 of run defense and run offense during the same year on seven occasions during the past 25 years. Those seven teams compiled a record of 74-11-1. VanGorder's last three college defenses finished in the Top 20 of total defense. His pass defense finished in the nation's Top 20 during his last two seasons.

During the 51 games VanGorder directed the Georgia defense the Bulldogs allowed 108 yards rushing, 197 yards passing and 16 points per game. His defense allowed 30 points or more on only one occasion while holding 33 opponents to 17 points or less.

Only four opponents were able to rush for 200 yards or more against the Bulldogs while 36 were held to 120 yards or less.

Only two opponents scored four touchdowns against VanGorder's defense while 39 opponents were held to two touchdowns or less. His defenses at Georgia were aggressive, stingy and consistent, something Auburn has lacked over the past three seasons. Fourteen defensive players were named All-SEC under Coach VanGorder, including four All-Americans.

Brian VanGorder is shown in action with the Atlanta Falcons.

Though his defenses at the NFL level were not dominant, they were consistent for the most part. VanGorder was the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons from 2008-2011. Those teams were in the top half of the NFL in scoring defense during all four seasons and in the top one-third of the league in run defense in three of four seasons.

His last two groups were in the top half of the league in total defense. During his time in Atlanta the Falcons allowed 109.4 yards rushing and 20.1 points per game. The Falcons made the playoffs in three of the seasons VanGorder was there, the best run in franchise history.

There is no doubt there is room for defensive improvement with the Tigers and Auburn's new coach will have a chance to make a positive difference. During the past 25 seasons Auburn has fielded a Top 30 scoring defense 15 times, but the last time was in 2008. During the past three seasons Auburn has finished no higher than No. 53 in scoring defense.

During the 15 seasons Auburn fielded a Top 30 scoring defense the Tigers accumulated a record of 140-41-4 or an average record of 9-3. If defenses don't win championships they certainly help pave the path to one. The last 35 teams to be crowned National Champions had an average ranking of No. 8 nationally in scoring defense.

The Southeastern Conference has made up nearly 20 percent of the teams that have finished in the Top 20 of scoring defense from 2000-2012. On an average four SEC teams have been in the Top 20 for scoring defense since 2000 and Gene Chizik wants Auburn to return to this level of production with VanGorder leading the way.


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