AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is set on bringing back all nine of his assistant coaches from the 2017 season. But Auburn football’s staff will get at least one new face next year.
Effective Jan. 4, college football teams will be allowed to hire a 10th full-time assistant coach. The idea has been on Malzahn’s mind for a while, and he expects to move promptly to fill that role.
“I’ve thought about it for quite a bit of time,” Malzahn said. “I do have a good idea of what we’re looking for, and all those things will start happening pretty quick.”
When asked about his criteria for the 10th assistant, Malzahn didn’t specify a certain position, but he placed recruiting savvy on his list.
“Looking for a great coach, a great recruiter, somebody that will fit in with Auburn and our culture, and be a great example for our players,” Malzahn said. “Real similar to the nine we have right now.”
Malzahn most likely has two options for his 10th assistant — another defensive coach or a dedicated special teams coordinator.
Auburn currently has four defensive and five offensive coaches, and Malzahn’s background is on the offensive side of the football.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who will stay with the program for a third season after interviewing for the coaching job at Tennessee, presented a solid argument for the assistant going to his side of the ball.
“I think everybody in every room, the offensive room at any school will say, ‘We need him on offense’ [and] the defensive room will say they need him on defense,” Steele said last spring. “My argument is you’ve already got the head coach, give us another one. Coach, he’ll have a plan. He’ll put him where he needs him.”
A fifth assistant coach on defense could lessen the load for defensive line coach Rodney Garner or defensive backs coach Greg Brown. Several inside the program told SEC Country throughout the year the 10th assistant coach hire would most likely come on defense.
In 2013 and 2014, Auburn split defensive back duties — cornerbacks and safeties — between Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison. Brown previously coached safeties at Louisville and cornerbacks at Missouri.
While an additional defensive coach might be anticipated, Malzahn has said in the past he would be open to a dedicated special teams coordinator.
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Auburn is coming off its worst season under Malzahn on special teams, as the unit was marred by poor kickoff and punt coverage and three blocked field goal attempts off the foot of Daniel Carlson.
It was the first year of running backs coach Tim Horton’s time as special teams coordinator. He took over for Scott Fountain, who left Auburn for an off-field role at Georgia following his reassignment from on-field coach with the Tigers.
Auburn hired Larry Porter as a recruiting coordinator and he took over Fountain’s position coach duties with H-backs and tight ends.
Although Malzahn won’t say which direction he’ll go, he said the decision should come soon.
“I’m not ready to say exactly what role this 10th assistant will be,” Malzahn said. “I’ll figure that out here in the near future.”