Turnover is a big part of college football. Each season, a huge portion of every team leaves via graduation, transfer or for the NFL. However, changes that are often overlooked by fans happen on the coaching staff. It is big news if there is a head coaching change, but position coaches or coordinators moving on or coming in can get lost in the shuffle.
Continuity on a coaching staff allows more time to be spent on instruction, game-planning and recruiting instead of each member having to determine the best way to divvy up those responsibilities. Gus Malzahn has retained most of the men on the current staff for multiple years, and defensive line coach Rodney Garner and strength coach Ryan Russell have been on staff since 2013.
Today, we look at three men who are entering their first season on the Auburn Tigers’ coaching staff. The ability of these newcomers to interface well with the other coaches and get the most out of their respective position groups will have a huge say in how successful the Tigers are this year.
Buck/OLB coach – Al Pogue
Previous coaching jobs – Off the field coach at Auburn from 2011-2013, defensive backs coach at Troy 2014-2018, outside linebacker coach at West Virginia in 2019
Coach Pogue is no stranger to Auburn University or the state of Alabama. Before making the jump to the college ranks as an off the field staffer at Auburn, Al Pogue was a successful high school head coach at both St. Jude and Carver High School in Montgomery. The connections and experience he developed in Alabama high school football led to assisting Coach Malzahn before earning his first on the field coaching job at Troy University.
Al Pogue has been a defensive coach since moving to the college game and has been in charge of multiple positions on that side of the ball. At Auburn, Pogue is tasked with coaching the buck position, which is primarily a stand-up linebacker on the line of scrimmage that has major pass rush responsibilities.
If Auburn is going to replace much of the pass rush production that has moved on to the NFL from last year, the buck position is most likely where that will happen. As strong as the interior defensive line play has been, the buck position has not exhibited the same consistency in the last couple of seasons. If Pogue can develop TD Moultry, Derick Hall or anyone else from that group into a force off the edge, then that could be the key to Auburn having an elite defense in 2020.
Offensive line coach – Jack Bicknell, Jr.
Previous coaching jobs – coaching since 1985, Offensive line coach in NFL coach for multiple teams from 2009-2015, Offensive line coach at Ole Miss from 2017-2019
Jack Bicknell arrives at Auburn as one of the most experienced coaches on the entire staff. The wealth of experience at the highest level of football and the recent work in the SEC have Bicknell primed to get the most out of a position group that will be very green in 2020.
The 2019 offensive line was pretty widely maligned as a group that was unable to get much push in the running game. That is never a good sign, but with Malzahn’s heavy focus on running the football, it was an even bigger issue. In 2020, Auburn will have new starters at four of the five positions, so Bicknell’s ability to develop multiple new guys to play at a high level is going to be critical.
For Auburn to have a great offense this season, Jack Bicknell, Jr. must put together five guys capable of protecting Bo Nix and opening lanes for the Tigers’ tailbacks consistently this fall.
Offensive coordinator – Chad Morris
Previous coaching jobs – Texas high school football coach until 2009, offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010, offensive coordinator at Clemson from 2011-2014, head coach at SMU from 2015-2017, head coach at Arkansas from 2018-2019
Chad Morris’ coaching trajectory had been completely ascendant until his stint with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Morris’ career path is strikingly similar to his friend, and now head coach, Gus Malzahn. Coach Morris moved from legendary high school coach to college offensive coordinator to eventually become a head coach in the SEC.
However, the lack of success in two seasons for the Razorbacks made Morris available in December 2019. The opportunity for Chad Morris to reset and for Gus Malzahn to revamp his offense with the coach that he trusts the most presents a unique opportunity. If there is someone who Malzahn may trust to fully give the reigns of the offense over to, Chad Morris is that guy.
Possibly the biggest strength on Morris’ resume is the ability to develop quarterbacks and design an effective passing attack. If Chad Morris can accomplish that in 2020 by getting the most out of Bo Nix and a talented group of skill position players, that could be the key to unlocking a special offensive season for Auburn.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw