AUBURN, Ala. — Josh Holsey’s eyes widened as he heard the names of all the secondary coaches who have overseen his position group since he joined the Auburn football program: Charlie Harbison, Melvin Smith, Travaris Robinson, Wesley McGriff.
“Dang,” Holsey said, scratching his beard in amazement.
Even Holsey, who joked he felt like he’d “been here a century,” marveled at the ever-revolving door at secondary coach. It’s something that has almost become an annual tradition at Auburn, and it will continue this offseason as Gus Malzahn begins his search for McGriff’s replacement.
There isn’t a major sense of urgency to fill that vacancy, according to Malzahn. New Ole Miss defensive coordinator McGriff will stay through the Sugar Bowl, which gives the Tigers the ability to bowl game prep while narrowing in on the “right” hire.
For the defensive backs, McGriff’s return for one final game with Auburn is a meaningful decision.
“I felt it was big for us, and he’s one of those guys that he doesn’t leave unless the job is done,” Holsey said. “He kind of harps on finishing the job, so that was kind of big for us for him to stay and coach us for these last few weeks and get some more knowledge out of him and to have him around before he goes off.”
McGriff spent one season with Auburn after arriving from the New Orleans Saints. He will return to his old stomping grounds in Oxford, Ala., whilst the Tigers re-open their search for a defensive backs coach. That will be a decision agreed upon by Malzahn and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, likely following the bowl game.
Malzahn has a few attributes in mind that will help guide his eventual replacement decision.
“We’ve got great chemistry with our staff, so I think that’s important. Looking for really just a good person that’ll be a great example for our players,” Malzahn said. “Looking for a guy that will be a great teach, that really can complement coach Steele and everything that goes with that. And also looking for a great recruiter.”
The Auburn defensive backfield will once again attempt to transition to another coach.
Holsey and other upperclassmen in the group have become accustomed to the constant changeover. They’ve learned to draw as many positives as possible from the inconsistency at the staff position.
“It’s good and bad. You learn something new, you learn something from the guy that comes in that the last guy didn’t teach you. You might learn one or two things that teach person doesn’t know,” Holsey said. “It’s hard sometimes because you got to learn new techniques but I mean it’s the sport we play. You got to embrace change things happen.”
It’s a useful message from Holsey to underclassmen — and recruits.
He knows as well as anyone the “business” of college football. Oftentimes, younger players aren’t fully aware of this regular staff change until it directly affects them. Holsey and others have had conversations with many of the younger guys regarding the best approach to the adjustment.
“I mean they’re getting used to it because it kind of happened to them last year as well. I kind of told them they kind of know, it’s a business, things happen, change is part of the life,” Holsey said. “We’re happy for him; nobody’s too down, you can’t pass up an opportunity like that to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. Everybody is just happy; they’re embracing it and they’re just going to get ready to come back next year and keep working.”