Campus Corner

Auburn buys into defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s vision

Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp speaks during a press conference at Auburn University, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn hired the former Florida coach as defensive coordinator Friday, hoping he can rebuild a defense that struggled badly late in the season.
Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp speaks during a press conference at Auburn University, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn hired the former Florida coach as defensive coordinator Friday, hoping he can rebuild a defense that struggled badly late in the season. AP

HOOVER, Ala. — New Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp boasts an impressive resume.

His tenure at Florida as head coach fizzled, but his reputation as a defensive whiz remains largely untarnished despite a lackluster (by the Gators’ standard) 28-21 record in four seasons.

Muschamp’s new boss, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, called him “the best defensive mind in all of football, not just college football.”

The Tigers’ defensive players already are enjoying and taking on Muschamp’s personality.

“From day one, he’s brought a whole lot of energy,” said Auburn senior linebacker Kris Frost, who said Muschamp’s presence was a key reason he returned for his senior season. “That’s his biggest thing I feel like, and it’s trickled down to all of us. It allows us to be able to come to practice each and every day and have fun.”

Auburn, which went 8-5 last season and tied for fourth in the SEC West, ranked 10th among 14 SEC teams in scoring defense, allowing 26.7 points last season.

The Tigers were ninth in total defense, allowing nearly 400 yards per game, and checked in 12th in passing defense (230.1 ypg) and 10th in rushing defense (168.8 ypg).

During previous stints as a defensive coordinator in the SEC at LSU (2001-04) and Auburn (2006-07), Muschamp’s defense ranked in the top 10 in total yards and top 15 in scoring defense each season.

Auburn expects a quick turnaround under Muschamp.

“People are going to see the changes right off the bat …,” senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said. “You can look and see what he did at Florida as far as their defenses. They were always at the top. People want to play for great coaches, and he’s a great coach.”

Muschamp primarily coaches inside linebackers, but he’s spent more time working with the defense as a whole than previous coordinators.

“We are already better as a defense, and we are ready to excel each and every day,” Frost said. “The competition we have at each position allows us to work harder and get better individually. … We trust coach Muschamp. We know that we have the opportunity to be a premier defense, and we are ready to do that.”

If Auburn, which ranked second in the SEC in total offense last season, can get the defense to pull its weight, another national title run could be on the horizon.

“His approach, his energy, his enthusiasm for the game — he just has that presence around him that he gives all the coaches confidence,” Malzahn said. “He gives his players confidence, and he’s got the it factor. We’re very blessed to combine his defense with an offense that we’ve been running. We think the future’s very bright.”

Auburn’s players believe, too.

“It’s a different atmosphere at practice,” Frost said. “As far as our defense is concerned, we are all excited. We feel like we have a new breath of life in us. Everything is so positive. I have never seen it so positive before, with everything circling around the team. For the team as a whole, we are extremely excited and pumped up about starting the season off.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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