With the offense in his capable hands along with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, that side of the football was one that not many Auburn fans worried about when he was hired. The defense was a different story.
The hiring of Ellis Johnson as the defensive coordinator was a strong sign that Malzahn meant business as he sought out a veteran coach who has extensive experience in the SEC and knows what to expect in the league. Bringing on another veteran who has worked with Johnson in Charlie Harbison gave the Tigers a coach familiar with Johnson's style and a coach known for his recruiting prowess.
Thursday's addition of Rodney Garner may be the thing that pushes the defensive staff to a higher plane. A gritty offensive lineman for the Tigers who earned All-SEC honors in 1988, Garner started his career coaching tight ends and the offensive line before moving to the defensive side of the ball when he took a job at Georgia in 1998.
In the past 12 seasons as the defensive line coach for the Bulldogs he has coached four first rounders and has had 19 players taken in the NFL Draft. Over that same time frame Auburn has had just nine defensive linemen taken by the NFL. That alone shows how much impact Garner could have right away for the Tigers in helping the production and talent level at that position for Auburn's defense.
Known more for his recruiting than his on-the-field coaching, Garner was one of 10 coaches from throughout the country to participate in the 2004 NCAA Expert Coaching Academy in Indianapolis and one of only 20 chosen for the NCAA's 2004 Advanced Coaching Academy in Orlando. That shows that his peers respect the work he's done on the field in making Georgia's defensive line consistently strong.
As a player Garner faced the deepest and most talented defensive lines in Auburn's history with Tracy Rocker, Benji Roland, Ron Stallworth, Nate Hill, Craig Ogletree and Aundray Bruce among the names he saw every day in practice. What better man to try to get the Tigers back to that level once again?