After a long, winding, contentious coaching search, Auburn football has its guy. Boise State’s Bryan Harsin is set to leave his alma mater for the SEC job.
The hire was reported nine days after Gus Malzahn was fired after nearly a decade with the program. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was initially one of the favorites for the job, but Tiger fans were not happy with the news that he was potentially being considered, and implications that he played a part in Malzahn being forced out.
After going through the motions with names like Clemson coordinators Tony Elliott and Brent Venables, Louisiana’s Billy Napier, UAB’s Bill Clark, Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian, and even a brief cameo by Hugh Freeze, the Harsin news came out of left field. He’s been a very consistent winner at Boise State, going 69-19 with three Mountain West Championships and two additional division titles. Not everyone is sold on his fit in the rugged SEC West, though.
Cole Cubelic, a former Auburn captain and SEC Network analyst, is not among them. He is pretty high on what Harsin can bring to The Plains.
Big fan of @CoachHarsin
Covered his teams multiple times. Focused. Physicality will not be an issue. Direction & organization always on point. Scheme can be successful in the SEC. The staff will obviously go a long way in determining just how good the hire is, but for now 👍🏼👍🏼
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 22, 2020
He expanded on his thoughts later on Tuesday. One of the most important points, which was reportedly a hangup for at least Bill Clark: Harsin will be allowed to hire his own staff, which seems obvious, but was apparently a bone of contention for some of Auburn’s power brokers.
My understanding is that @CoachHarsin will have full control of his staff at Auburn.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 23, 2020
“I feel good about it, I think it’s a very strong hire. I think it’s a good hire,” Cubelic told CBS 42’s Drew Carter in an interview. “I think it’s a good fit from a personality standpoint. Bryan Harsin’s super focused, he’s determined, he’s driven, he’s organized, and he’s going to have a football team that’s physical.
“Offensive line, defensive line, you’re going to get quality hard-nosed play. It’s going to be a run-first offense, I think the scheme can work in the SEC. I think a guy like Tank Bigsby can really flourish in this scheme.”
— Drew Carter (@Drewdle25) December 23, 2020
“He’s obviously been a head coach, he’s been proven, he’s been around some other great head coaches, and he’s been on both sides of the country. I think that there are a lot of positives,” Cubelic continued, going on to cite some of the main concerns with Harsin at Auburn. “You’re a little bit concerned about recruiting and what his staff is going to look like, but outside of that—based on some of the things we were hearing especially, I think you have to think of this from a comparative standpoint—I feel great about it.”
That’s a solid endorsement from someone who obviously knows the program and knows the coach.
Harsin got his first head coaching opportunity at a small school in SEC country, Arkansas State, where he took over for Malzahn in 2013. He went 7-5 that year, winning the Sun Belt, before taking the jump over to his alma mater Boise State.
Before the brief stint at Arkansas State, he was co-offensive coordinator at Texas, he spent a year on staff at Boise, including as offensive coordinator when the Broncos had their historic upset of Oklahoma, and coached running backs and wide receivers at Eastern Washington.