Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville is looking to replace his defensive coordinator for the fourth time heading into his 10th season at Auburn with Will Muschamp taking his talents to the University of Texas. Feeling out potential candidates while attending the American Football Coaches Association Convention in California, Tuberville says he hopes to name a new coordinator before the week is out and it's safe to say he's had a lot of interest from all over the country about the open position.
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing since the job opened up," Tuberville tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "The interest in the position is unbelievable."
While there are many names being floated about, there is obviously a list of guys who will be potential candidates for the job, but right now Tuberville isn't giving out any names.
"I don't want to say anyone specifically because many of the guys still have jobs," Tuberville says. "That wouldn't be fair to them."
Based on past history, Tuberville will be looking for a coach that has been or is currently a coordinator on the collegiate level. He will also look for a coach that fits in with his current staff, both professionally and socially, to ensure a comfortable working environment. Ties to the South and particularly the Southeastern Conference are also going to be important because of the recruiting job needed to keep up with the joneses in the SEC.
One thing to consider is that Muschamp's leaving this season may be a blessing in disguise for the Auburn program. It was widely known that Muschamp was looking to become a head coach and was unlikely to be at Auburn more than one more season. With Pat Sims (depending on his NFL decision), Chris Evans and Merrill Johnson the only regulars that are seniors among a large group of sophomores and juniors expected to see time for the Tigers on defense in 2008, the move this season will allow them to mature in the new defense over time.
A few names to keep an eye on as this search unfolds are former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, current Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. While there will be many names involved before the search is complete, all three are strong coordinators and could get a look before things are done. In the end it could very well be a name out of the blue that turns out to be the next diamond on defense for Tuberville.
In his last four seasons at Georgia Tech, Tenuta's defenses finished in the Top 30 nationally in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense, and in 2005 his unit made 21 interceptions, the most for a Tech team in 15 years. In 2007 Georgia Tech was 20th in total defense, 20th in rushing defense and 21st in scoring defense in the country. They also led the nation in sacks with 48 in 13 games.
One thing that may work against Tenuta is he has never coached in the SEC and doesn't have the reputation of being a top-notch recruiter. While his football coaching talent can't be denied, whether or not he's the right fit for Tuberville and the Tigers is a question that can't be ignored.
A candidate for Auburn's open position in 2005 when David Gibbs was named defensive coordinator, Rhoads is the architect of a fantastic Pittsburgh defense that overcame a stale offense to finish the season third in passing efficiency in the country, fifth in total defense, 26th in rushing defense, 33rd in passing defense and 42nd in scoring defense.
Adding to those numbers was an offense that turned the ball over 24 times this season. Perhaps the biggest feather in his cap is giving up just 9 points to a West Virginia team that scored 48 on Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and a team Auburn will face next season. The secondary coach his first seven seasons at Pitt, Rhoads coached the linebackers in 2007.
Just like new Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Koenning is a Kansas State graduate and is a former Troy coach. Putting together a fantastic defense at Clemson in 2007 that finished the season 9th in the country in total defense, 10th in scoring defense, 13th in pass efficiency defense and 23rd in scoring defense, Koenning's unit is built on speed just the same way that Tuberville's teams have been in past seasons.
Fielding literally dozens of calls for the open position, Tuberville and the Auburn program are obviously a good combination for coaches from across the country. While Muschamp coached defensive backs, the first order of business for Tuberville will be to hire the best coordinator possible regardless of the position he coaches now and make position adjustments on the staff if necessary.
In the end Auburn and its defense will set itself. The prospect of coaching the Tigers in the coming future on defense is a strong lure because of the talent returning and the stability of the current staff. Tuberville should have no problem finding a more than capable coordinator to carry on what has been a strong tradition of defense on the Plains and it could happen sooner rather than later.