Coach Tommy Tuberville hired his fifth defensive coordinator at Auburn by acquiring Paul Rhoads from the Pittsburgh Panthers, where he held the same position for the last eight seasons. Rhoads' name should be familiar with Auburn fans as this was not the first time Tuberville offered him the position. We all know now that Rhoads actually accepted the position after the 2001 season, but changed his mind after returning to Pittsburgh. Rhoads' name came up again when Tuberville was searching to fill the same vacancy after the 2004 season.
Rhoads remained at Pitt before the 2002 season started and Gene Chizik from Central Florida was hired by Auburn to be the defensive coordinator for the 2002 season. Chizik remained on the Auburn staff through the 2004 season before bolting to Texas for the 2005 season. Coach David Gibbs replaced Chizik after Tuberville turned to the NFL (Denver Broncos) to hire his third defensive coordinator. Gibbs lasted one season before returning to the NFL and Coach Will Muschamp was brought in for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Like Chizik, Muschamp elected to take a coordinator position with the University of Texas.
The third time appears to be the charm as Paul Rhoads decided it was the right time to make his move to Auburn. Unlike Tony Franklin, Auburn fans will have to wait until the 2008 season to see what kind of coordinator Paul Rhoads will be at Auburn. Though he was forced into installing his offense in a short period of time, Coach Franklin eased some concerns by totaling over 400 yards in offense against a worthy opponent in Clemson. It was a gamble that Coach Tuberville took on offense but a gamble that clearly paid off going into 2008.
Rhoads inherits a defense with plenty of play-makers like linebacker Tray Blackmon.
History Lesson by Numbers...
Muschamp was a popular hire when he arrived in 2006 and became even more popular with his hard work and the final product he put on the field over the last two seasons. Rhoads arrives with far less fanfare but with the talent Auburn has returning in 2008, he will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact. With the musical chairs we have seen at the defensive coordinator position, here is a brief history by numbers.
John Lovett was Auburn's defensive coordinator for three years from 1999-2001. During the last two seasons, Auburn's defensive rankings dropped and a change was needed.
2000: 14th total defense, 28th scoring defense, 15th run defense and 41st pass defense.
2001: 39th tot defense, 48th scoring defense, 42nd run defense and 52nd pass defense.
Rhoads at Pittsburgh became the No. 1 candidate and was considered one of the top upcoming coordinators in college football. Here are his numbers at Pitt from 2000 and 2001.
2000: 29th total defense, 22nd scoring defense, 17th run defense and 80th pass defense.
2001: 7th total defense, 28th scoring defense, 26th run defense and 6th pass defense.
When Rhoads turned down the offer before the 2002 season, Tuberville hired Chizik from Central Florida. Chizik's two-year numbers before coming to Auburn were impressive too.
2000: 28th total defense, 32nd scoring defense, 37th run defense and 23rd pass defense. 2001: 16th total defense, 13th scoring defense, 37th run defense and 15th pass defense.
Obviously Tuberville considered Rhoads and Chizik for multiple reasons other than their national rankings prior to coming to Auburn, but from a fan's perspective, Rhoads appeared to be the best choice based on the defensive rankings from 2000 and 2001.
Chizik's impact at Auburn was felt right away in 2002 as the Auburn defense improved in three of the four major defensive categories.
2002: 26th total defense, 13th scoring defense, 46th run defense and 26th pass defense.
Run defense was the only category Auburn did not improve on from 2001 but Chizik proves to be a solid hire in his first year. In the meantime at Pittsburgh, Rhoads defense put up solid numbers in 2002.
2002: 12th total defense, 14th scoring defense, 24th run defense and 18th pass defense.
If there was ever any doubt about Chizik, he brushed them away over the next two seasons at Auburn.
2003: 5th total defense, 9th scoring defense, 7th run defense and 23rd pass defense.
2004: 5th total defense, 1st scoring defense, 12th run defense and 10th pass defense.
By the end of the 2004 season, Auburn is 13-0, the defense has improved every year Chizik was on the job and no one is thinking about Rhoads. Of course this all changes when Chizik elects to leave for Texas before signing day of 2005. Gibbs is hired as the next defensive coordinator at Auburn and his numbers were solid for the most part.
2005: 19th total defense, 6th scoring defense, 22nd run defense and 32nd pass defense.
During the same year, Rhoads defense at Pitt improves in 2005 after struggling in 2003 and 2004.
2005: 31st total defense, 30th scoring defense, 94th run defense and 2nd pass defense.
At Texas, Chizik improves the Longhorns defense in 2005 and the Longhorns capture the BCS National Championship.
2004: 23rd total defense, 18th scoring defense, 16th run defense and 58th pass defense.
2005: 10th total defense, 8th scoring defense, 33rd run defense and 8th pass defense.
Once again, Chizik improves a defense in three of four major defensive categories during his first year on the job. Of course it didn't hurt that Texas had the third best offense in the nation in yards gained and the No. 1 scoring offense in 2005.
Muschamp replaces Gibbs in Auburn for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Like, Chizik, Muschamp's defense is solid during his first season and continues to improve the following year.
2006: 19th total defense, 7th scoring defense, 45th run defense and 14th pass defense.
2007: 6th total defense, 6th scoring defense, 29th run defense and 6th pass defense.
Chizik is hired at Iowa State as their new head coach for the 2007 season but not before his numbers drop at Texas during his second season as defensive coordinator.
2006: 22nd total defense, 26th scoring defense, 3rd run defense and 99th pass defense.
During Chizik's final season at Texas, the Longhorns offense is not as productive without the services of Vince Young. The Longhorn offense drops from No. 3 in total offense in 2005 to No. 22 the following year. Without Chizik at Texas, the Longhorns defense continues to fall in 2007.
2007: 52nd total defense, 45th scoring defense, 6th run defense and 109th pass defense.
After two seasons at Auburn, Muschamp decides to take the same path traveled by Chizik and Muschamp is off to Texas and Rhoads improves his defense at Pitt from a disastrous 2006 campaign.
2006: 87th total defense, 60th scoring defense, 107th run defense and 29th pass defense. 2007: 5th total defense, 42nd scoring defense, 33rd run defense and 3rd pass defense.
Rhoads is pictured at an early-morning winter workout this February.
On January 17, 2007, Rhoads becomes the next defensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers. Coach Tuberville was searching for a coach with coordinator experience at the college level that could work with the defensive backs. Rhoads fits the bill along with being young and energetic. From all accounts, Rhoads is a very good defensive backs coach and a relentless recruiter. This by far will be the best situation Rhoads has started off with as a coach and Auburn is getting a coach that has coordinated a defense to finish in the top 20 of all four major categories.
Auburn has been blessed with several quality defensive coordinators under Tuberville, but Tuberville himself has been the common denominator for success. Each coordinator that has come to Auburn has been asked to adapt his schemes to synchronize with a system already in place. Despite having three different coordinators at Auburn over the last five years, Auburn's defense has finished no lower than 19th in total defense and no lower than 9th in scoring defense.
Though it's true that Rhoads suffered through some lean years at Pittsburgh, he was never in a consistent environment that he will find at Auburn. He will be working along with good assistant coaches on the defensive side of the ball and Rhoads will find the talent and depth at Auburn is better than Pittsburgh for the most part. He will continue to have a head coach that makes defense a priority and an offense recently installed that won't leave it up to the defense to win the majority of games.