"Crime Dawg" is back. Wesley McGriff, who served as cornerbacks coach for Ole Miss in 2012, will return to Oxford to serve as defensive coordinator for the Rebels, which is set to be announced on Friday. McGriff just concluded his first season as secondary coach for Auburn. With McGriff's help, the Tigers finished the 2016 regular season ranked 16th in the FBS in team passing efficiency defense and 20th in total defense. Auburn has a Jan. 2 date with Oklahoma in the All-State Sugar Bowl.
Prior to his stop at Auburn, McGriff coached defensive backs for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL. His first season in New Orleans saw the Saints ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense, second in opponent passing yards per game and fourth in scoring defense. Before moving up to the pro ranks, McGriff helped Ole Miss to the BBVA Compass Bowl in the 2012-13 season. He also helped sign the top recruiting class in school history at the time, which included No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche and five-star prospects Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil. McGriff was the lead recruiter for Nkemdiche and had a huge hand in signing Treadwell. He has been named one of the top recruiters in the country by multiple recruiting services. McGriff has also coached at Vanderbilt, Miami (Fla.), Baylor, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky State and Savannah State.
McGriff will take over an Ole Miss defense that was abysmal under former defensive coordinator Dave Wommack in 2016. The Rebels finished the season ranked 120th in the FBS in rushing defense, 64th in team passing efficiency defense and 110th in total defense. Wommack announced his retirement prior to Ole Miss' 55-20 Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State.
Some Ole Miss fans will argue that McGriff doesn't have enough experience running a defense, but he was the best possible candidate for the Rebels. The other name that was heavily floated around was former Colorado and now Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, but as we saw on Wednesday with Leavitt opting for a four-year pact with Oregon, Leavitt had additional opportunities. And with the ongoing NCAA cloud hanging overhead, Oregon offered, fair or not, the perception of more stability. Not only does McGriff bring years of experience coaching SEC programs but he also has experience coaching pro football. No matter the level he's coached, McGriff has been known to treat his players with integrity and respect and seems to get the most out of his guys with this approach. He has been quoted multiple times saying he wants his players to bring their "personality to the field" instead of playing like "robots" and his philosophy has worked in developing young talent.
(Wesley McGriff explains the origin of his nickname "Crime Dawg." AL.com)
McGriff is also an ace recruiter. Recruiting is one of his strongest skill sets and in order for the Rebels to fix the issues from 2016, they will need to continuously sign top prospects. McGriff was already one of the best recruiters in the country prior to his NFL experience but his time with the Saints will be another big sell to recruits who want to play at the pro level. McGriff now becomes the only coach on Ole Miss' staff with NFL experience.
The Rebels need an upbeat high energy coach to revitalize the worst performing defense in Hugh Freeze's tenure. McGriff will not only come in with his passionate attitude but will be hungry to succeed in his first defensive coordinator role. Remeber 2012 when Freeze and the entire Ole Miss football program were hungry to just win and prove they belonged in the SEC West? After a long NCAA investigation and a terrible season, a lot of that hunger and energy seems to have dissipated. "Crime Dawg" will bring in a fresh perspective that should translate well to his young players and bring back the hungry Landshark defense Ole Miss fans were accustomed to prior to 2016.