Auburn, Ala.--Kevin Steele joked that he didn’t need a GPS?device to find Auburn, but noted that he is serious about doing a good job as Gus Malzahn’s new defensive coordinator and doing it for the long haul.
At Steele’s introductory press conference on Tuesday, six days after he was hired, he said that it is his goal to make Auburn his final coaching destination.
He also said it was a “very, very easy decision” to make the move from LSU to Auburn because of his family connections to the university and growing up following Auburn football as a child who lived in the state of Alabama where his father was a high school football coach.
Steele, who spent last season as defensive coordinator at LSU, replaces Will Muschamp, who left after one season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator to become head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Commenting on his decision to move to the Plains, Steele said, “The real reason other than the normal coaching things, and Coach Malzahn being the kind of person he is, the kind of leader he is...that was a key component for me personally.
“The fact that there is tradition here to win championships, to play hard-nosed defense, but from a personal standpoint the state and this university has a large part of me in it. My first game (college game he watched) was in Jordan-Hare Stadium when Larry Blakeney, who played for my dad, was with the Auburn Tigers. My dad brought me to my first college game in this story.
“David Housel, who was the athletic director here, played for my father (at Gordo) in high school so there are those kind of things.
“My younger brother (Jeff) works in the athletic department here as an associate athletic director. I am not sure what he does, but he has job here. My daughter is a graduate from here and my mom lives in Prattville. There were just a lot of things that made it work.”
Auburn based its defense with both 3-4 and 4-3 looks in 2015 under Muschamp’s guidance and that is not expected to change with Steele in charge. “Obviously, there will be some things in the defense that will be similar because of the coaching tree,” he said. “That is a good thing.”
“Auburn has a history of being a hard-nosed, physical defense for years and years, ever since I was a young guy growing up in this state with a high school coach as a father. I certainly know the tradition and the history of Auburn’s hard-nosed defenses and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”
Malzahn announced the hire last week following Auburn’s 31-10 Birmingham Bowl victory over Memphis. The head coach said he is delighted that Steele decided to join the program. Malzahn didn’t give a timetable on when he would announce the two other coaches who will join the defensive staff to replace Travaris Robinson (defensive backs) and Lance Thompson (buck linebacker), but that is expected to happen next week.
“When we started this process there were a couple things we were looking for,” Malzahn said. “I wanted to be patient and we got the right guy. I?was looking for somebody who had SEC experience who had been successful in this league. Definitely, he has that and then some.
“I was looking for a successful recruiter--one of the top recruiters in all of college football. I was looking someone who has high character, integrity, and he definitely has that and then some, and then somebody who would be a great example for players, which definitely fits with that.
“Then, lastly, I was looking for stability, someone who would be here for a while and have a chance to build our defense into something special,” Malzahn said. “That fit all of the above and I am very excited Kevin Steele is our new defensive coordinator.”
Steele said that he plans to give Malzahn the stability that he is looking for on that side of the ball. “He has the best clause in my contract that anybody could have. My wife said, ‘We’re going to Auburn, and we’re staying at Auburn.’ There’s no ink that could give more guarantee than that. I’m 57 or 58, I don’t even know what I am, but I want to be here the duration of my coaching career, and I’ve never been able to say that before. Part of the reason is I saw my first game here and it would be just fine with me that I coach my last game here.”