AUBURN, Ala. — Speculation ran rampant on New Year's Day during the Outback Bowl when television cameras caught sight of Will Muschamp in Auburn's coaching box wearing a headset. How much was the Tigers' new defensive coordinator assisting in the game plan, if any?
Coach Gus Malzahn quickly set the record straight in his postgame press conference, saying Muschamp was merely "listening" and "observing" while the game went on.
"He's trying to get to know our guys," Malzahn said, "and see how they react."
That's not quite how Montravius Adams remembered it, though. As the rising junior defensive lineman recalled, Muschamp was in the locker room at halftime. And Adams said Muschamp used the opportunity to address the defense, giving them a rousing motivational speech.
He punctuated it with one of his trademarks: a punch to a dry-erase board.
"The Wisconsin game, me and (defensive lineman) LaDarius Owens were watching a video ... and he had said something, and he punched the board," Adams said, referring to a video captured while he was Texas' defensive coordinator. "And then at halftime (of the Outback Bowl), I swear it was like a replay in my head, same thing at Wisconsin."
When asked about his contributions during the Outback Bowl following Thursday's practice, Muschamp acknowledged he might have been a little more hands-on than previously thought.
"I was helping out a little bit," he said. "Obviously it didn't work. It wasn't very good."
NCAA rules permit teams to have nine full-time assistant coaches at practices and games. At the Outback Bowl, Charlie Harbison was serving as the interim defensive coordinator after Ellis Johnson was fired. Harbison continued to coach the safeties as well, while defensive analyst Travis Williams took charge of the Tigers' linebackers, the group Johnson had guided.
Yet regardless of how much (or little) Muschamp tried to aid Auburn's defense against Wisconsin, the effort, as he noted, was futile. The Tigers lost 34-31 in overtime, with the defense putting forth another underwhelming performance. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon ran for 251 yards, the most any individual has ever posted against Auburn in a single game.