AUBURN, Ala. – The Christmas Day presents keep rolling in for Gus Malzahn.
Earlier today, Auburn’s head coach signed the nation’s top available junior college offensive guard to a national letter of intent.
Then Malzahn fortified the defensive side of the ball by filling out coordinator Ellis Johnson’s staff of assistants.
Melvin Smith was hired as Auburn’s cornerbacks coach Tuesday, bringing nearly two decades of SEC experience with him from Mississippi State.
“Melvin is an outstanding secondary coach and is one of the top recruiters in the Southeastern Conference,” Malzahn said. “He has a reputation for his ability to develop players and his 31-year coaching resume speaks for itself. We’re excited to have Melvin join our staff.”
Smith, 54, will have a young position to group to work with – freshman Joshua Holsey played all 12 games and started six at corner, while sophomore Jonathan Mincy and freshman Jonathan Jones also factored into the starting lineup. Junior Chris Davis, who battled concussion syndromes late in 2012, is also scheduled to return.
“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to work for Coach Malzahn and Auburn,” Smith said. “I’ve admired Gus’ work from afar and have always loved his offenses.”
The hire likely will lock in co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison to lead the safeties, and Johnson will guide linebackers. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner fills out a mega-experienced group of defensive assistants.
“When we discussed this job, Gus told me that he was looking for men of character and integrity who were excellent coaches,” Smith said. “When I saw who he hired to his staff and having worked previously with Ellis, Charlie and (offensive line coach) J.B. (Grimes), I knew that’s exactly that was the type of men he was hiring. This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family.”
Johnson, Harbison, Garner and Smith have logged a combined 98 years of college coaching experience – including 68 in the SEC alone.
For comparison, Auburn’s 2012 defensive assistants (Brian VanGorder, Willie Martinez, Tommy Thigpen, Mike Pelton) had a combined 17 years of SEC coaching experience going into the season.
Johnson, Harbison, Grimes and Smith were each on the 2007 Mississippi State team that went 8-5 with a Liberty Bowl victory. That was also the only Bulldogs team to defeat Auburn in 11 tries between 2001-11 – a 19-14 MSU win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Smith mentored Jim Thorpe awardwinner (the nation’s top defensive back) Johnthan Banks and all-SEC second-teamer Darius Slay in 2012, one of the league’s top cornerback tandems. Smith was at Mississippi State the past seven seasons, as well as a stint from 1995-2001.
A native of Taylorsville, Miss. who grew up in Magee, Miss., Smith also coached at Ole Miss (1992-94), Alabama (2002) and Texas A&M (2003-05).
Smith graduated from Millsaps College in 1982 and earned a Master’s degree in administration from Delta State in 1992. He and his wife, Sheilah, have four children.