As promised, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn completed his first coaching staff by the time that recruiting started to heat up again.
In mid-December, He told former Auburn center and Huntsville, Ala. radio host Cole Cubelic his goal was to have a staff in place before recruits come on official visits to Auburn.
"We'd like to have the staff hired before the 1st official visit"-Gus Malzahn on when he would like to have his staff in place on 97.7fm— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 18, 2012
With the NCAA-mandated "dead" period ending last Thursday, recruiting is back in full swing for the home stretch leading up until national signing day on February 6. Auburn had its first official visit of 2013 when JUCO DT Ben Bradley of Hutchison Community College visited The Plains this weekend along with 5-star LB Reuben Foster and other unofficial visitors.
But let's get back to the coaching staff.
On Friday, Malzahn completed the 2013 coaching staff by hiring TE coach Tim Horton. It ended a two-day coaching shopping spree by Malzahn. He hired WR coach and co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig and RB/Special teams coach Rich Bissacia on Thursday. It will be his first staff as Auburn's head coach. Here is a look at the 2013 Auburn coaching staff (via Auburn Athletics):
By all accounts, Malzahn has hired a stellar staff.
Auburn's hiring Rich Bisaccia as new STC from NFL. Lots of coaches I know rave about him. Malzahn's staff is strong.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 3, 2013
If we compare Malzahn's first staff to former head coach Gene Chizik's first staff, there is no room for debate on who has the stronger initial staff.
Let's give credit where it's due, though. Chizik's first staff was applauded and had the Auburn faithful very enthusiastic about the future. It also won the 2010 BCS National Championship. Here is what Chizik's first staff looked like:
Offensive coordinator/QBs—Gus Malzahn
Defensive coordinator/LBs—Ted Roof
Offensive line—Jeff Grimes
Running backs—Curtis Luper
Wide receivers—Trooper Taylor
Tight ends/Special teams—Jay Boulware
Defensive line coach—Tracy Rocker
Secondary—Phillip Lolley and Tommy Thigpen
Where Chizik's 2009 staff pales in comparison to Malzahn's 2013 staff is in experience coaching and recruiting in the SEC. Much of the staff Chizik brought in did not have a lot of experience coaching or recruiting in the SEC.
Roof, for example, had only been at Minnesota, Duke and Georgia Tech as a coach. Luper had spent most of his coaching days in the Big 12 conference. Grimes came from Colorado.
Taylor and Rocker were the seasoned veterans of the SEC. Taylor had been at Tennessee and Rocker, who is an Auburn legend, had been at Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Malzahn used a different strategy when hiring his staff.
With him only having one year under his belt as a head coach at the college level, he surrounded himself with coaches who were well-versed in the SEC. They are also proven developers of players.
For example, among the defensive coaches, Auburn has 68 years of coaching experience in the SEC, according to Aaron Brenner of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Defensive line coach and former Auburn player Rodney Garner has coached four first-round NFL draft picks in his time as UGA's defensive line coach. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson spent time at South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State. He has coached in four SEC Championship games.
On the offensive side of the ball, Grimes has had stints at Mississippi State and Arkansas in his coaching career.
Oh, they can recruit too.
Malzahn has hired recruiting coordinators from UGA, FSU and Arkansas.
Craig has been a thorn in the side of both the Auburn and Alabama programs for a couple of years on the recruiting trail for Florida State, particularly in the state of Alabama. As good of a recruiter as Craig is, he proved himself as a coach when he helped develop Christian Ponder into a first-round NFL draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
Charlie Harbison, the Auburn safeties coach, was named one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation by Rivals in 2010. Ellis Johnson, Auburn's defensive coordinator, was the lead recruiter for 2013 Heisman Trophy candidate Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina.
As you can see, it's pretty clear who was able to hire a better staff between Chizik and Malzahn. Chizik surrounded himself with what he thought were solid coaches, but hey lacked a lot of experience in the SEC as coaches and recruiters.
Malzahn has surrounded himself with over a century of coaching experience and proven recruiters in the SEC.
Chizik's first staff worked out pretty well for him in the beginning; only time will tell if Malzahn's first staff will bring championship-caliber football back to the Loveliest Village.