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Niziolek: Losing Will Muschamp would be tough blow to overcome for defense showing signs of life

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The Auburn defense gangs up to tackle Idaho running back Isaiah Sanders in the first half Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com)
The Auburn defense gangs up to tackle Idaho running back Isaiah Sanders in the first half Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com) Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com

One of the challenges Will Muschamp had taking over as Auburn’s defensive coordinator this past season was teaching the veterans yet another new system.

For the Tigers’ upperclassman, Muschamp was their third different defensive coordinator in four years.

“Seeing these guys especially Cass (McKinzy) and Kris (Frost) and Justin Garrett and some of these seniors. And Jon Jones. They've been through a lot, through a lot of terminology, a lot of different ways of approaching things,” Muschamp said. “There's no question that I think it takes a toll on a player. There's no doubt. After going through this situation, there's no question.”

Muschamp called continuity a “huge issue” that doesn’t just impact the players on the field. It spills over to recruiting where coaches covet different skill sets at different positions.

“What kind of defense do you want to be?” Muschamp said. “I think that’s a huge part of it. Recruiting the type of young men to fit in your scheme and your system from a pass-rush standpoint, from a run-stopping standpoint, from a linebacker standpoint, from a coverage standpoint.”

It would be a major blow for Auburn to have to go through it all over again, but that’s exactly the scenario the team faces with Muschamp’s name linked to the vacancy at South Carolina.

His name has also been linked to Georgia's staff under new coach Kirby Smart.

Muschamp faces plenty of competition for the South Carolina job, but losing the veteran coach would put another hurdle in front of a defense that made major strides over the final four weeks of the season.

Georgia’s 243 yards against Auburn was the lowest the defense gave up to an SEC in four years.

The Tigers would have to scramble to find a top-level replacement while holding on to key defensive recruits — Marlon Davidson (DL), John Broussard (DB), Marlon Character (S) and David Marshall (DE) — that are coming to the Plains to learn under one of the country’s top defensive minds. 

With an offense in disarray, Auburn isn’t in a position to go through more unrest on the defensive side of the ball where turmoil has been the name of the game for more than a decade.

The Tigers haven’t been able to find a long-term solution on the defense with five different defensive coordinators in six years.

Muschamp would be fourth defensive coordinator since 2004 to only coach one season at Auburn matching the tenure of Brian VanGorder (2012), Paul Rhoads (2008) and David Gibbs (2005).

Ted Roof is Auburn’s only defensive coordinator during the stretch to stay at the school for three seasons. 

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made a point of avoiding speculation over coaching changes following his team’s 29-13 loss to Alabama.

As the Tigers start preparation for a bowl game, South Carolina could force Malzahn’s hand. 

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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