After multiple conflicting reports about Auburn being close to hiring LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele on Wednesday, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn addressed the situation after the Tigers won the Birmingham Bowl.
Malzahn confirmed that Steele has indeed accepted an offer to become Auburn’s next defensive coordinator. Steele just completed his first year as the LSU defensive coordinator after serving as the linebackers coach at Alabama during the 2014 season.
Malzahn confirms Kevin Steele will be Auburn's next defensive coordinator. Praised his work ethic, character. Didn't take questions on that.
— Matthew Stevens (@matthewcstevens) December 30, 2015
LSU finished 10-3 in Steele’s first season in Baton Rouge, La. including a dominating 45-21 win over Auburn. LSU’s defense was ranked 27th nationally, allowing 347.2 yards per game.
LSU reportedly made attempts to retain Steele after the team defeated Texas Tech, 56-27, in the Texas Bowl Tuesday night.
Steele has two prior stints as a defensive play-caller at Alabama (2007) and Clemson (2009-2011). Steele, who is a Tennessee alumnus, also held a head coaching job at Baylor (1999-2002) and was named the recruiter of the year by Rivals in 2005.
Steele has an Auburn connection with his brother, Jeff, who is the associate athletic director of facilities and operations at Auburn.
Steele will be expected to improve an Auburn defense that finished 91st nationally in total defense under Will Muschamp, former defensive coordinator. Muschamp vacated the position after one season to become the South Carolina head coach earlier this month.
The hire ends what appeared to be an arduous process for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and Penn State coordinator Bob Shoop both reportedly turned down offers from Malzahn. The Auburn coach may be on the hot seat going into next season after a 6-6 regular season finish, which makes taking the job a risky proposition if the Tigers falter again in 2016.
Expectations for Steele will be extremely high after Auburn’s defense capped the season with an impressive 31-10 win against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. Memphis entered the game averaging 510.4 yards a game, but Auburn limited the Memphis unit to just three points and 203 yards of total offense under interim defensive coordinator Lance Thompson.