Upon being hired at Auburn, Gus Malzahn cleaned house with Gene Chizik’s former assistants, who included Trooper Taylor. Even though Taylor was an ace recruiter, it’s better in the long run if Malzahn cut ties with him completely.
Malzahn’s first assistant hired was former South Carolina defensive coordinator and Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson. Despite not being successful as a head coach, Johnson is considered widely as one of the best defensive minds in college football. He has 16 years coaching experience in the SEC, and that bodes well for Malzahn and Auburn.
It was crucial for Malzahn to hire an established and successful defensive mind, because we all know that Malzahn’s strengths lie on the offensive side of the ball, and he got the best one available in Johnson.
“Ellis is one of the top defensive minds in all of college football. He is very experienced and has tremendous success coaching in the Southeastern Conference,” Malzahn said. “He is a man of integrity who will be a great ambassador for Auburn. We’re very pleased to have him join our staff and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program.”
Johnson will try to transform one of the worst defenses in the SEC into a viable unit. His record and history certainly shows he can have such an impact, but it will take him a couple of years to change the defensive culture.
While Mazahn went with a veteran hire for the defensive coordinator, he went with his protégé Rhett Lashlee as the new offensive coordinator. Lashlee was Malzahn’s offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, and he’s spent six of the last nine seasons working with Malzahn and the offense.
“Rhett is one of the best young offensive minds in college football,” said Malzahn. “I’ve been with Rhett a long time and he’s been an incredibly valuable right-hand man. He has a great knowledge and understanding of Auburn and will be a tremendous asset for this program both on and off the field.”
On Sunday, Malzahn also hired Clemson’s secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison. Harbison, 53, will serve as Auburn’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.
“Charlie is an outstanding coach and recruiter and we’re excited to have him join our staff,” Malzahn said in the release. “He’s very familiar with Coach Ellis Johnson, having coached together on two different staffs, which will be a tremendous asset to our defense. He is a true professional and one of the class guys in college coaching.”
Later on Sunday, Malzahn hired Ryan Russell as his new strength and conditioning coach, replacing the longtime Kevin Yoxall at Auburn. Russell served as Malzahn’s strength and conditioning coach at Arkansas State.
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