Auburn's new coordinators, VanGorder, Loeffler, bring new ways to the Plains

VanGorder, Loeffler bring new ways to the Plains

August 26, 2012 

AUBURN, Ala. --

On the surface, they seem so different.

One is a barrel-chested veteran with a 1970s-style haircut, a throwback mustache, a booming voice and a résumé full of defensive coordinator experience at both the collegiate and NFL levels.

The other is long and lanky, soft-spoken, a youngster on his way up through the coaching ranks being given his first chance to run a big-time offense in the SEC.

But Brian VanGorder and Scot Loeffler are not so different after all. Both coaches are detail-oriented, intense in practice and unafraid to deliver a tongue-lashing for a simple missed assignment.

Both were brought to Auburn with the same task, to bring the NFL's style of play to the Plains.

The Vet

VanGorder's hire set off mostly celebration among Auburn fans. A former Frank Broyles Award winner as the nation's top assistant coach at Georgia and stolen from the Atlanta Falcons, VanGorder has been hailed as a savior by Tigers fans frustrated by Auburn's struggles under Ted Roof.

His first task was turning the Tigers back into the aggressor on defense.

Both the old and new schemes start in the 4-3 formation, but that's where the similarities end. Under Roof, Auburn's defense was constantly trying to read-and-react to offenses. VanGorder wants his defense to dictate the action.

"It's definitely an NFL system, but that's what we need," walk-on safety Trent Fisher said. "The coaches are putting us in position to make plays in this defense, and that's good. We love it. We're going to get after it."

Fisher, the son of St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, should know an NFL-type defense when he sees one.

And VanGorder has not softened the scheme at all. From Day 1 of Auburn's training camp, VanGorder has been vocal, tearing into players for mental mistakes.

"He even told us in the meeting he was going to pick his intensity up," middle linebacker Jake Holland said.

"Nothing gets by him. Every play, he sees everything."

The Rising Star

Loeffler arrived in Auburn as a coach on the rise. After one season as a coordinator at Temple, he's been tabbed to take over for Gus Malzahn, the man who presided over one of the most potent offenses in recent history with Cam Newton at the helm.

The spectre of Newton, to some degree, hangs over the program, and Loeffler was partly brought in to solve a Newton-related problem.

When Auburn doesn't have an otherworldly Heisman candidate's athleticism at quarterback, Gene Chizik wants his coach to be able to develop passers.

Loeffler fits the bill.

Ever since he has taken over, he has harped on the technique of Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and now former Central-Phenix City standout Jonathan Wallace. Loeffler wants his quarterbacks to focus on every little detail.

"I think, from a technical standpoint, he expects more," Frazier said. "He expects you to play more NFL-like than Coach Malzahn did."

Loeffler's offensive system has been shrouded in mystery ever since he was hired. A well-traveled coach with experience in Michigan's pro-style offense, the Detroit Lions' actual pro offense and Urban Meyer's spread option, Loeffler has learned just about everything.

And he just might use all of it when the games start in September.

By the same token, Auburn's offensive players have faced a steep learning curve. Unlike Malzahn's offense, which was tailored to be simple -- hand signals for calls, one-read throws for quarterbacks, fixed routes for receivers -- Loeffler's offense is built like an NFL offense.

He expects his players to absorb a lot more information.

"In this NFL, West Coast offense, spacing is so important," wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said.

"One guy screwing up a throwing window can throw the whole play off. I've never seen this sense of urgency as far as the details."

Great Expectations

Early in camp, VanGorder and Loeffler coached the same way, with an eye toward getting their charges ready for a top-15 Clemson team on Sept. 1.

"The sense of urgency in training camp, to me, is different than the spring," VanGorder said early in Auburn's practice schedule.

"We're some 24 practices away from playing our first game."

VanGorder and Loeffler know the same thing.

In the SEC, as in the NFL, the measure of a coordinator always can be taken the same way:

By whether his team wins.

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