After trying twice to lure Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads to Auburn two previous times, Tuberville finally got the man he wanted all along as Rhoads will join Tuberville's staff at Auburn to take over for Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Muschamp left earlier this month to become defensive coordinator at Texas.
Going after Rhoads in both 2002 and again in 2005, Tuberville almost got him to join the Tigers until the potential of a possible head coaching job at Pitt kept him from taking the position. Now the lure of coaching in the SEC and coaching on Tuberville's staff convinced him to take the AU position.
"I was looking for a college guy who had been a defensive coordinator on this level and had success doing that and Paul Rhoads was an obvious choice," Tuberville told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I am very excited that Paul will be joining our staff at Auburn. He is an excellent defensive coach."
Rhoads had these comments after he was officially announced as AU's newest football coach. "I'm happy and very excited to be an Auburn Tiger," he says. "My family and I are thrilled about being a part of the Auburn Family and the Auburn community. I truly appreciate the opportunity that Coach Tuberville and Auburn have given me and can't wait to get started.
"I look forward to the challenge of competing in the Southeastern Conference, which is the best conference in the country, and helping Auburn compete for a national title."
Serving as Pitt's defensive coordinator for the last eight seasons, Rhoads is coming off his best year ever for the Panthers. On the strength of a dominating performance to close out the year against West Virginia when the Panthers held the high-scoring Mountaineers to just 183 yards of total offense in a 13-9 win, the Panthers finished fifth in the country in total defense, one spot ahead of Auburn.
Trying to hold up an offense that failed to finish in the Top 71 in the country in any category and turned the ball over 24 times, Pitt finished third in nation in pass defense (167.25 yards), 26th in pass efficiency defense, 33rd in rushing defense and 42nd in scoring defense. The Panthers also finished 20th in the country in sacks at 2.92 per game.
The secondary coach his first seven seasons at Pitt before coaching the linebackers in 2007, Rhoads had five defensive backs selected in the NFL Draft from 2002-2007 including standout Darrelle Revis last year. Bernard Lay, Shawntae Spencer, Torrie Cox and Ramon Walker were all selected by NFL teams during Rhoads' tenure with the Panthers.
Named the best defensive coordinator in the Big East by The Sporting News in 2006, Rhoads success with the Panthers is well documented. In 2005 the Panthers ranked second nationally in pass defense and sixth in pass efficiency defense. A year earlier they ranked ninth nationally with 17 interceptions and scored four defensive touchdowns.
In 2002 Pitt had one of its best seasons since the golden era of Pitt football in the 1980's. The Panthers ranked in the Top 25 in the country in seven different defensive categories and gave up the fewest points for a Pitt team since 1988 despite playing 13 games. The previous season saw the Panthers finished in the Top 30 in five categories and hold opponents to less than eight points during a five-game winning streak.
Rhoads joined the Panthers after serving the prior five seasons (1995-99) at Iowa State, where he was the secondary coach his last four years after coaching the inside linebackers in 1995. Rhoads also assisted with the Cyclones' special teams.
Prior to Iowa State, Rhoads spent three years at Pacific (1992-94) where he worked with current Auburn staff members Don Dunn and Andy Lutz, serving as the defensive backs coach and, in his final season, coordinator of the Tigers' pass defense. In 1993, Pacific ranked 20th nationally, allowing just 152 yards passing per game. Rhoads began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (1991) and Utah State (1989-90), working with the secondary at both schools.
A 1989 graduate of Missouri Western with a bachelor's degree in economics, Rhoads was a three-year football letterman and the recipient of the Chris Faros Scholarship, honoring the program's top senior student-athlete. He later earned his master's degree from Utah State in 1991.
Tuberville said he only considered candidates who had success as a coordinator on the college level. "That was very important to me and it was important to find somebody who had a lot of experience recruiting," said the AU coach, who noted that Rhoads will be working with a two-year contract at Auburn."