Will Muschamp (above) is getting his second shot to be a college head coach in the SEC East.
Another Year Of Change
It’s hard to fathom but with the move of Will Muschamp to South Carolina as the new head coach of the Gamecocks that will mean when the Auburn Tigers hit the football field against Clemson to open the 2016 season it will be with the eighth change at defensive coordinator since Gene Chizik left in 2004.
Since that time you’ve had David Gibbs (2005), Will Muschamp (2006-07), Paul Rhoads (2008), Ted Roof (2009-11), Brian VanGorder (2012), Ellis Johnson (2013-14) and Muschamp again in 2015.
That means not a single defensive player has come through Auburn in the last decade and had the same coordinator for his career. For most fifth-year seniors who have played defense for the Tigers they have had three different guys calling the signals and three different schemes to deal with.
Those kinds of stats make for a challenging work environment for even the most seasoned of NFL veterans, much less college defenders trying to learn the game along with growing into men at the same time. Coaches like to say that playing defense is difficult because all 11 players have to be on the same page for things to work while on offense you can have a great player or two make up for other problems. When you're constantly trying to learn and re-learn defenses mistakes are going to happen and that's what we've seen from Auburn way too much.
Now Gus Malzahn has to look for a coordinator for the third time in his four seasons as a head coach. The good news is that Auburn is a very desirable destination for coaches and that hasn’t changed with Muschamp’s departure. With the money to hire a top-notch coordinator the time is now to make that happen.
With so many of Auburn’s top recruiting targets expected to be early enrollees it’s imperative that Malzahn make a speedy hire with just one week left before the dead period arrives, which lasts until the middle of January. Almost as important is getting a new coordinator on campus in time to get some sort of plan together to play Memphis and to also get an early start on evaluating the talent on campus heading into spring practice.
Several Memphis Tigers Will Be Ready
When Auburn takes on Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl one of the players on the other side of the line of scrimmage will be more than fired up to play his dream school. Growing up wanting nothing more than to play for Auburn, Memphis center Drew Kyser will get the next best thing on Dec. 30 when the Opelika native suits up across the line of scrimmage from Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell.
Playing in all 12 games with 11 starts in the middle, the 6-5, 300-pounder has been one of the biggest impact newcomers for Memphis and will be a key player in Memphis’ offensive plans against Auburn. Another freshman that will be excited to play Auburn is running back Jamarius Henderson from Dale County.
Rushing for 310 yards and four touchdowns this season while adding a pair of touchdown receptions, the speedster has been a nice addition to the Paxton Lynch-led offense for Memphis. Throw in senior defensive lineman Ricky Hunter from Loachapoka and freshman Jared Gentry from Opelika and this game definitely has plenty of guys with incentive to play well against the home state and in some cases hometown team.
There are several SEC bowl games that will be very intriguing to me, not including two of the big six games with Alabama taking on Michigan State and Ole Miss playing Oklahoma State. After watching Michigan State’s last-second win over Iowa I don’t think the Spartans have nearly enough offensive firepower to beat the Crimson Tide, but with plenty of winning under their belts and a physical attitude this one may be closer than many think.
Two other games really caught my eye with the first being Florida taking on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. I know the Gators have trouble scoring and Michigan’s defense is pretty strong, but this one has all the makings of a knock-down, drag-out affair. Another one is LSU vs. Texas Tech. This is a clash of styles in the biggest of ways with LSU’s power running game up against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. On the flip side the Red Raiders average 46.6 points and almost 500 yards of total offense per game, challenging an LSU defense that has been very much up and down this year.