AUBURN, Ala. — After a brief season on the Plains Wesley McGriff is headed to Oxford, Mississippi.
Ole Miss officially announced the Auburn defensive backs coach as its defensive coordinator on Friday morning.
McGriff spent the 2012 season (and part of early 2013) on the Rebels sideline as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. He’ll replace Dave Wommack, who announced his retirement at the end of November following five seasons with on head coach Hugh Freeze’s staff.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 16, 2016
“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to return to Ole Miss and work with Coach Freeze again,” McGriff said in a statement. “Obviously, I am familiar with the history and tradition of success here. This is an elite program, and I look forward to helping this team win championships.”
Following his short time at Ole Miss, McGriff made the jump to the NFL, where he served as the New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach for three seasons.
The coach affectionately known to players as “Crime Dawg” was an important part of the Tigers’ defensive turnaround this season. Following several years of poor secondary play, Auburn’s pass defense ranks No. 4 nationally (67 pass breakups and 11 interceptions) and No. 13 in passing yards allowed per attempt (6.1).
“Wesley is the total package — an outstanding leader, creative coach and dynamic recruiter,” Freeze said in a press release. “The defenses have been outstanding at every place he has been, and his most recent experience at Auburn has him well prepared for this opportunity. He helped lead a unit that was tremendous at stopping the run, limiting explosive plays and being stingy in the red zone, and we look forward to Wesley applying those same principles to our young men on that side of the ball.”
Rumors about the hire circulated for weeks before the hire was officially announced. On Wednesday, head coach Gus Malzahn briefly addressed the matter, saying he hoped to keep McGriff on Auburn’s staff.
“He’s a talented coach. He did a super job,” Malzahn said. “He’s our defensive back coach right now and I hope we hold onto him.”
McGriff was at the Tigers bowl practices this week, according to players present at a Thursday media availability.
In a statement released Friday morning, Auburn said McGriff will remain on the Tigers coaching staff through the Sugar Bowl on January 2 in New Orleans.
“I want to thank Wesley for the great job he did for Auburn this season,” Malzahn said in a press release. “He is not only a very good coach but an outstanding person. When I hired Wesley, he told me his goal was to be a defensive coordinator and this was an opportunity too good to pass up. Our coaches and players, along with Wesley, wanted him to finish the bowl season with us and we appreciate him doing so.”
Auburn has not made an official statement regarding plans to hire a new defensive backs coach. Whoever eventually fills the role will be the fourth position coach hired in four seasons.
Junior Tre Williams spoke of McGriff’s hiring during a media availability on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m happy for him. Just to hear his story and how he worked up to the position he’s in now,” the linebacker said. “There’s no question that he didn’t take the job. I’m really happy for him. I pray he continues to be successful.”