War Eagle Extra

Reports: Ole Miss hires Auburn’s McGriff as defensive coordinator

Auburn secondary coach Wes McGriff, left, talks with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele during spring practice.
Auburn secondary coach Wes McGriff, left, talks with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele during spring practice. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Coach “Crime Dawg” is returning his old stomping grounds.

According to reports from FootballScoop and ESPN, Ole Miss is hiring Auburn secondary coach Wes McGriff as its new defensive coordinator.

An Auburn spokesperson declined comment on the reports.

McGriff spent the 2012 season coaching the Rebels defensive backs for then first-year coach Hugh Freeze.

Freeze turned to McGriff to fill the vacancy left by defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, who retired at the end of the season.

Ole Miss (5-7) struggled defensively all season, giving up 34 points per game (100th in the country) and 461.3 yards per game (T-110th in the country).

While defensive lineman Montravius Adams said McGriff was at Thursday’s practice, linebacker Tre’ Williams sounded as if the team was expecting the news of the coach’s departure.

“I’m really happy for him, and I pray he continues to be successful,” Williams said.

McGriff is coming off a successful season on the Plains where he helped new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele turn around a unit that spent the previous three years near the bottom of the SEC.

“He’s a talented coach,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday about reports linking McGriff to Ole Miss. “He did a super job. He’s our defensive backs coach and I hope we hold on to him. I’m not going to get into any details on that except to say he did a super job for us, and he’s a very good coach. He’s one of the best in the business.”

McGriff came to the Plains after three seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. He also had a lengthy resume at the collegiate level, including stints at Vanderbilt, Miami, Baylor and Kentucky.

Auburn will be searching for its fourth defensive backs coach in as many years.

Malzahn has cycled through a series of coaches in the secondary, including Travaris Robinson, Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison, but McGriff will be hard to replace.

The veteran coach quickly earned the respect of his players and received universal praise from the secondary throughout the season.

“When we get on the field, he’s intense every time,” Auburn defensive back Josh Holsey said. “He wants everything to be intense. He wants us to fly around. It’s flowing through that secondary, and we’re kind of feeding off him. It’s really big feeding off your coaches. He’s helping us in a lot of ways, and he’s helping this secondary — probably one of the best since I’ve been here.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra