Offensive line coach Hugh Nall, 44, has been promoted to the coordinator's role and the Tigers have hired a new quarterback coach to replace Bobby Petrino, who held the dual role of QB coach and coordinator before moving on to Louisville last week as head coach.
Steve Ensminger, a 44-year-old former LSU quarterback with 16 years of collegiate coaching experience, has been hired for the vacancy on the Auburn staff. He is already on the job for the Tigers. On Tuesday after the announcement of his hiring, he was meeting with Nall and going over plans for spring practice that starts on March 1st. A-Day 2002 is April 5th.
Nall and Ensminger say to look for little change from the offensive system the Tigers used in 2002 except for a new person calling the plays on game days. Nall will coordinate the overall game plan from week to week, but Ensminger will call the plays from the press box. He was an offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M and Clemson.
"I know that everybody thinks that I am a running guy only, and I do love to run the football," says Nall. "That is why I think it is really going to be a great marriage with Steve being here and his background in the passing game. That is how this came up really. Then again, if we need to be five-wide to win a game, we are going to be five-wide. If that is what we need to do to keep them off-balance to win the game, we will do that. We have got that ability to do that.
"We are not going to be three yards and a cloud of dust, but we are going to have the capability to do that," Nall adds.
Ensminger, a four-year letterman at LSU from 1976-79, has coached in the high school ranks the past three seasons. He coached against Auburn as an assistant at Georgia, but did not play against the Tigers while at LSU. Nall says, "I have known Steve Ensminger for years and the job he has done at other schools. I am just excited about what we are going to do and continue to do and take a system that is in place that our kids are familiar with and continue that system and hopefully get better with it."
The new QB coach comes from West Monroe, La., High School where he was offensive coordinator. He says that he decided to coach high school football to spend more time with his family. He has an 18-year-old daughter named Krystalin, a 15-year-old son named Steven and an 11-year-old daughter named Brittany Rose. Steven is a ninth grader and plays quarterback like his father.
"The biggest attraction was Auburn University and the other one was to work with Tommy again," says Ensminger on returning to college football. Tuberville and Ensminger were coordinators at Texas A&M in 1994. Tuberville left after that season to become head coach at Ole Miss.
"I think everything is just timing," Ensminger says. "When I got out of college coaching, it was the right time for me to do that for my family and for my kids to spend some time with them. I have had some other opportunities to get back in (college coaching). I didn't feel like it fit myself or my kids or family, but I thought this did. I thought this was a good opportunity and the timing was right."
Hugh Nall (left) and Steve Ensminger went to work on the 2003 offense on Tuesday. The Tigers start spring drills on March 1st.
Nall says that he is excited about getting the job and coaching the 2003 Tigers, a football team with loads of promise. "We are going to tell the whole team that no positions have been made for this next year," Nall says. "There are some things that I want to improve on with the offensive line. They played OK this year, but there are certainly things I want to improve on."
Ensminger says that his job in the coming weeks will be to study video and learn the offensive system that is in place. "I think the approach we are taking is the best approach," says Ensminger of the decision made to not change the offense like the Tigers did a year earlier when Petrino arrived. "I have learned, I guess, six or seven other offensive systems in my tenure in college coaching and everywhere else and I look forward to the challenge.
"I have coached a little bit of everything," Ensminger adds. "When I was at McNeese, we were an I formation team and ran some option. When I went to Louisiana Tech, we were a passing team. When I went to the University of Georgia we were basically an I football team that ran the football and we developed into a pretty good passing team. We ended up the last year we were there (1993) most of our running backs were hurt. We ended up being in a four-wideout system so I have pretty much done it all. I like what they are doing here. In college football nowadays you have to be balanced. You have to be a physical football team on both sides of the football. I think lining up and being able to run the football answers all of those questions."
Ensminger says a team he coached at Georgia that featured quarterback Eric Zeier and tailback Garrison Hearst had what he considered an ideal mix because the Bulldogs were equally effective running or passing the ball and also nearly 50-50 on run/pass ratio. "We were a very good ball club then," he adds. "I think that is the answer to it. I think you play to your strengths. If we had a game tomorrow, I think we all know it is our running backs. We are not going to change any of that."
Tuberville hired Petrino on Jan. 7th, 2002 to replace Noel Mazzone, who came to Auburn in 1999 with the rest of the Ole Miss coaching staff when Tuberville was hired by AU. Petrino arrived from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars where he spent two seasons as a quarterback coach and one as the offensive coordinator.
On Dec. 23rd, the 41-year-old Petrino was hired as head coach at the University of Louisville, a college where he had worked as offensive coordinator for one season in 1998 prior to taking the job in Jacksonville.
Tuberville convinced Petrino to return to the college ranks in 2002 to rejuvenate the AU offense and that is what Petrino did as offensive coordinator and coach of the quarterbacks. He had a large role in Auburn's 9-4 season, which included victories over LSU (31-7) and Alabama (17-7) when each of those teams was ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Nall, who recruits south Georgia, could have his recruiting area reduced after the 2003 signees are in the fold. The new offensive coordinator says that he and Tuberville have discussed that, but no final plans have been made. Ensminger says he "looks forward" to hitting the recruiting trail whenever he gets his assignments from the head coach...Eddie Gran will continue to coach running backs, Greg Knox will coach wide receivers and will help with the tight ends, who will be coached by a graduate assistant to be named later, Nall says. Steve Dennis coached the tight ends as graduate assistant in 2002. Nall says that Knox and Gran will be heavily involved in the weekly game planning as they were in 2002.