VanGorder Discusses Staff, Philosophy

Comments from Auburn's new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's new defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, said on Thursday that a decision has not been made yet on whether he will have the added duties of a position coach or just mange the big picture on defense while adding input at every position.

However, the Tigers are close to getting the staff responsibilities set for the 2012 football season, he noted.

The Tigers are currently a defensive coach short of a full staff with cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley moving into administration, but VanGorder said that will soon change.

VanGorder's background is coaching linebackers. He said he may or may not be a position coach this season. "Part of the evaluation is that I am evaluating coaches also to just see where their knowledge base is," he said. "That is a possibility I would coach linebackers. The other possibility is I would move around and coach all of the positions and be a part of all meetings and such.

"That is part of the process we are in, even this week, as we get together as coaches just finding out where guys are, and finding out strengths and weaknesses," he said. "Coaches are the same as players. We have strengths and weaknesses."

If VanGorder doesn't coach linebackers that assignment could go to Tommy Thigpen, who has coached the safeties the past three years for the Tigers. Thigpen played linebacker in college and professionally. He has also coached the position at the college level.

The leading candidate to join the staff, Willie Martinez, is experienced coaching both safeties and cornerbacks. He has worked with VanGorder at Central Florida, Central Michigan and the University of Georgia.

As he begins to put in his system, which VanGorder said will be based on a 4-3 look but will also be "multiple," evaluating the coaching staff's knowledge is a major point of emphasis, just like evaluating the players is, he noted.

"I would say here at Auburn we have a good solid staff from an experience standpoint and a knowledge standpoint so I think there are a lot of things that are a matter of translating terminology and different languages," the coordinator said.

"Then there are those things in scheme. That part of it, guys have a good grip on correlating something they called this, that is now this. I think the things that are involved within a front, within a run fit, within a different coverage, that part of it, is different in some aspects.

"I have to make a judgment based on how I feel they are taking it on," he added. "It is a good group. It has been very productive so far."

With spring practice scheduled to start on March 21st, VanGorder said he expects his staff to be complete soon.

"We are in the process of that," he said about filling the vacant spot. "I think we are getting close. Hopefully, that is going to happen rather quickly and we can get on with it."

He said that he has enjoyed this week as he gets settled into his new job after moving to Auburn from Atlanta, where he was the defensive coordinator of the NFL's Falcons the past four years.

"It was great this week because we are finally together as a defensive staff and going over the playbook and getting ready for spring," he said. "It is good to get into some football. Like any transition there are a lot of different things from a family perspective you have got to get in order. It has been busy."

Asked his impressions of the returning personnel on defense for the Tigers, who have nine starters back for the 2012 season, VanGorder said, "It is a young group, first of all. I think there is some inexperience that certainly shows, but I look at the inexperience and try to project and decide on a certain process for a guy.

"I think we have got a lot of guys who will be ascending players going into their second or third year so I am encouraged by that," he said.

"What I can see on film, and what I don't know on film, is the overall ability of our players to take on a new system," the coach said. "That is kind of the challenge we have right now. "How much do we throw at them?"

Asked about how much change to expect on defense, VanGorder said, "Since we are a 4-3 defense, and that is what Auburn was using a year ago, I think schematically there will be quite a bit of similarities. I think in the area of pressure it will be different. I think we will end up being a little bit more multiple in looks."

However, he said how multiple the Tigers will be this year will depend "on what the players can handle."

"We will have to see where that goes," he said. "I don't think it will jump out at you and say ‘wow,' it is way different than what we have seen at Auburn for years from a 4-3 standpoint."

Philosophically, he said that he is looking to go with big players whenever possible at every position on defense. "Bigger is better," he said, although he added that is just one factor in determining whether or not a player can get the job done.

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