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January 25, 2013

Scott Fountain promoted to TEs, special teams coach; Bisaccia officially departs Auburn

ScottFountainAUBURN, Ala. — Next man in.

With Rich Bisaccia likely on his way to the Dallas Cowboys’ staff just 22 days after being brought to Auburn, head coach Gus Malzahn made some minor adjustments to ensure his staff will remain a completed entity while National Signing Day draws closer.

Auburn announced Friday Tim Horton will shift over to handle the running backs, after initially being tabbed to coach tight ends. Scott Fountain, who had been Auburn player personnel director since February 2009, becomes the Tigers’ tight ends and special teams coach.

Bisaccia was hired Jan. 3 as assistant head coach, as well as guiding the running backs and special teams units, after 11 years consecutively spent in the NFL ranks. Although Auburn did not specify Bisaccia’s destination, ESPNDallas.com and the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday night Bisaccia was close to becoming the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator.

“Rich had an offer that he felt he could not turn down,” Malzahn said in a release, “and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Horton spent the previous six seasons coaching running backs at Arkansas, including current NFL players Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and 12 years overall teaching in the backfield, making this a natural transition for him.

“I’m excited that Tim will be coaching our running backs,” Malzahn said. “He has a tremendous track record coaching some great backs and I’m extremely confident that will continue here at Auburn.”

Fountain was brought to Auburn early in the Gene Chizik era, but remained on support staff after the regime change. On his official Auburn bio, he “was responsible for all aspects of recruiting and assists with day-to-day football operations, with emphasis on administrative assistance to Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. Helped Auburn sign three Top 10 recruiting classes, including the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in 2011 according to Scout.com.”

Fountain, a native of East Brewton, Ala., was Chizik’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Iowa State from 2007-08. He previously coached positions at Georgia Southern, Middle Tennessee State and Central Florida. He graduated from Samford in 1988 and earned a Master’s degree from Florida State in 1998, and has high school coaching experience in the state of Alabama.

“Scott is someone I tried to hire as an assistant coach a year ago at Arkansas State,” Malzahn said. “He is a great coach with a tremendous work ethic, and his strong ties in the state of Alabama will be an asset to our program.”

Aside from the official release, Malzahn tweeted: “Excited about Scott being on field now. Great coach, great recruiter, strong ties in AL. Won’t miss a beat! #wareagle

January 23, 2013

Reports: Assistant head coach, RBs/STs coach Rich Bisaccia to leave Auburn for Cowboys

Bisaccia_Richard_ChargersAUBURN, Ala. – Auburn may already have lost one of its assistant football coaches, less than three weeks after bringing Rich Bisaccia on board.

Bisaccia, who was hired Jan. 3 from the San Diego Chargers to lead the Tigers’ running backs and special teams units and serve as Auburn’s assistant head coach, is close to finalizing a new deal to guide the Dallas Cowboys’ special teams, according to reports Wednesday night.

ESPNDallas.com and the Dallas Morning News each cited an unnamed source, indicating an official announcement could come Thursday.

Bisaccia’s Auburn salary and contract had not yet been disclosed by the university. The Dallas Morning News reported the final loophole in the Cowboys’ agreement was buying Bisaccia out of his Auburn contract. A request for comment from Auburn was not immediately returned.

Bisaccia, 52, has coached special teams in the NFL continuously since 2002. He won a Super Bowl championship with Tampa Bay that year, and remained with the Buccaneers for nine seasons.

He then spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Chargers. Bisaccia previously coached at Ole Miss, Clemson, South Carolina and Wayne State (Neb.).

The Cowboys brought in Monte Kiffin Jan. 11 to be their new defensive coordinator. Kiffin and Bisaccia were together in Tampa Bay between 2002-08.

Last Saturday, when asked about his coaching staff coming together, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said, “We’re one team with one heartbeat and one vision. They’ve really worked their tail off so hard, and I really see good things in the future with this group.”

January 14, 2013

Former Auburn OC Scot Loeffler headed to Virginia Tech, per CBS report

AUBURN, Ala. — The final bill on Auburn’s 2012 coaching dismissals continues to drop.

Last fall’s offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, has been hired to the same position at Virginia Tech, according to CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman. He would be the third assistant from the Tigers’ jettisoned head coach Gene Chizik’s staff to land a job elsewhere, which as dictated by their 2012 contracts will decrease buyouts paid out by Auburn University.

Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen and secondary coach Willie Martinez have joined the defensive staff at Tennessee, and their 2013 salaries combine for $625,000 according to a Knoxville News Sentinel report. Since Loeffler’s annual Auburn paycheck was $500,000, a similar salary from Virginia Tech would push Auburn’s mitigated dollar figure over the $1 million mark.

There’s been talk Loeffler was interested in bringing last fall’s colleague, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, with him to Blacksburg, which would further add to the recouped financial payouts from last year’s staff. The gross payout to Chizik and his nine 2012 assistants began at $11.09 million.

Previously the playcaller at Temple, and a QBs coach at Florida, Michigan, Central Michigan and the Detroit Lions, Loeffler was at Auburn for just one year, overseeing the nation’s 118th-rated total offense in a switch from spread to pro-style attack. Virginia Tech ranked 83rd in the country under 11th-year offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.

December 5, 2012

Price: Malzahn success hinges on spread

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Former Auburn offensive coordinator, and now Tiger head coach Gus Malzahn begins his press conference Tuesday. 12.04.12

By Kevin Price

Auburn announced the hiring of Gus Malzahn Tuesday afternoon, bringing the spread offense and one of its biggest believers back to the Plains.

“This is a homecoming for me, and I look forward to being reunited with the Auburn family,” Malzahn said.

Chizik hired Malzahn as his first offensive coordinator in 2009. A year later, Malzahn and quarterback Cam Newton, the prototype quarterback for the spread offense, led the Tigers to a national championship with a record-setting offense.

Without Newton in 2011, the Auburn offense slipped and the Tigers fell to 8-5. Most of the reason for the offense’s decline was that the Tigers didn’t have a quarterback who could properly run the offense.

Kiehl Frazier was recruited to Auburn by Malzahn. But Frazier, who was a freshman in 2011, never seemed to grasp the spread offense. Clint Moseley and Barrett Trotter were just not cut out for it.

Chizik believed that to win consistently in the SEC he had to dump the spread, and that meant bidding good-bye to Malzahn. Chizik didn’t fire Malzahn, but he certainly wasn’t going to raise a hand to try and stop him from leaving, for what turned out to be Arkansas State.

Perhaps Chizik’s fate was sealed the moment he brought in Scot Loeffler in as offensive coordinator to replace Malzahn. The offense, under Loeffler, looked downright inept most of the season. The Tigers finished 3-9 and winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980.

While the Auburn defense was lousy as well, most of the blame for this past season fell — and rightfully so — squarely on Chizik and Loeffler.

At the time Malzahn left, it appeared he was tucking his wounded pride and heading back home to Arkansas, where he had been revered as a high school coach. It seemed he could have had a much better job than Arkansas State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

But maybe he knew something would open back up on the Plains, and it did as Chizik was fired less than two weeks ago.

Malzahn did what he needed to do as a head coach at Arkansas State to make him a candidate for a step up. His team went 9-3, won the Sun Belt title and earned a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

It appeared that Auburn zeroed in on Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart from the outset of the search. At various times in the past few days, either Malzahn or Smart was the leading candidate, according to published reports.

Much like the hire of Chizik, there are doubters about Malzahn and the spread offense. There is still a question of whether it can win long-term in the SEC. The answer to that question will determine whether this a happy homecoming or not.

Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com.

7 at 7: Get to know Gus Malzahn (again)

AUBURN, Ala. – Seven things you should know about Gus Malzahn:

1) So Malzahn will make $2.3 million in base salary next year. He’s signed for five years. We know that much, and little more. (His contract was not made available to reporters Tuesday night.)

That figure nearly triples his Arkansas State salary ($855,210), but is less than double his dollar amount when he was Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2011 after being richly rewarded for the championship year.

Two other coaches whose 2012 salary was $2.3 million: Bill O’Brien, Penn State. Charlie Strong, Louisville. Things that make you go hmmmm…

Nine of the 14 SEC coaches into 2012 – including, yes, Gene Chizik – made more than $2.3 million.

2) Chizik’s wife, Jonna, was outspoken, drawing headlines for a bizarre Facebook post this year which cried for help to restore the players’ spirit and well-being … which may or may not have, um, mentioned a certain red-horned adversarial deity whose name rhymes with Saban.

Think that was weird? Has to be mentioned: Malzahn’s wife, Kristi, had her own eye-raising experience in the public eye, which was murmured to have affected Gus Malzahn’s process of obtaining his first head coaching job last year.

3) Malzahn’s daughters, Kylie and Kenzie, attend Auburn and Arkansas State, respectively. They were both on hand supporting Dad Tuesday night at the Rane Room.

4) Malzahn is unsure whether he’ll coach Arkansas State’s GoDaddy.com Bowl against Kent State … “but I will say this,” Malzahn added, “I am 100 percent committed to Auburn and getting this thing going as soon as possible.”

Translation: Sorry, A-State. Auburn’s paying you nearly three-quarters of a million to take your coach. They’ll need him now. Figure it out.

5) Hey, Bo Jackson, why’d you and the committee settle on Malzahn, other than the university saving a few bucks on nametags for the team meet-and-greet since he basically already knows everybody in pads?

“He brings tenacity. He brings courage. And he brings the will to get better,” Bo said. “You’ve got those intangibles in your corner, you will be successful.

Disclaimer alert …

“But I remind the Auburn family out there: this is going to be a process,” Jackson said. “Don’t expect anybody to come here and win 9, 10, 11 games next year. If they do that, even I will be shocked. We’ve got to get back to basics.”

6) Too early to look at the 2013 schedule? Nah.

Sept. 7, 2013. Look who’s coming to town. Arkansas State, Auburn, Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“Yeah, how about that?” Malzahn said, drawing a laugh from the crowd and a slight grimace to his face. “Yeah, that’s pretty ironic how that works. They’re going to be a very good team.”

7) Malzahn finished his press conference, shook about 1,400 hands among the well-wishers, retreated to his new office (no word on whether he’s moved into Chizik’s digs yet) and went to work.

Five-star defensive tackle recruit Dee Liner tweeted the following:

At 10:41 p.m. CT.

About two hours after the Rane Room cleared out.

Yeaaaah. Sorry, A-State. Malzahn belongs to Auburn now. And it appears the weary won’t be requiring much rest. But more on that later.

December 4, 2012

“Forever an Auburn man w/ an Auburn family”: Gus Malzahn welcomed home with open arms (Videos: Malzahn, Bo Jackson, Nosa Eguae)

AUBURN, Ala. — Welcome home, Gus.

That was Pat Sullivan’s pledge, verbatim. That was Jay Gogue’s and Jay Jacobs’ firm-handed statement. And that sums up just about the entire Auburn community’s heartfelt feelings toward the man so instrumental to arguably its beloved football program’s greatest moment.

Gus Malzahn, wearing a black suit, white shirt and orange tie with his signature black-framed glasses (no visor, not yet), opened his address to hundreds of reporters and university supporters before him at the Auburn Athletic Complex Rane Room with the battle cry of two oh-so-familiar words.

War Eagle.


Video streaming by Ustream

“I’m just tickled to death. It’s a true honor for me to be the head coach of the Auburn Tigers,” said Malzahn, hired Tuesday to guide the football team’s rebuilding effort. “I spent three years here, and I can honestly say it was the three best years of our lives, for my family and myself.

“I feel connected, forever, to be an Auburn man with an Auburn family.”

Malzahn, 47, was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator from 2009-11, the first three years of his head coaching predecessor Gene Chizik’s tenure. Together, Chizik, Malzahn, quarterback Cam Newton and the Tigers became college’s football national champions in 2010.

Malzahn was part of three bowl victories on Chizik’s staff: the 2010 Outback Bowl, the 2011 BCS National Championship and 2011 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Malzahn left after last season to pursue his first head coaching opportunity at Arkansas State. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record and Sun Belt Conference championship.

Meanwhile, Auburn went the other direction. The Tigers were 3-9 and went winless in the SEC for the first time in 32 years, leading to Chizik’s firing Nov. 25.

“One of the great Auburn traditions is to welcome family home and to make them feel like it’s home,” Auburn Alumni Association president Bill Stone said. “That’s real easy tonight, because it’s more like a family reunion.”

The four-man search committee of athletic director Jacobs, former Heisman winners Sullivan and Bo Jackson and former fullback/successful businessman Mac Crawford needed nine days to bring Malzahn home, a decision approved Tuesday by university president Gogue.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ve got to have patience,” Jackson said. “He’s facing an empty lot. He’s got to go move dirt, lay a foundation, and start to rebuild a house,” Jackson said. “Gus will rebuild this house the best way he sees fit.”

Jacobs announced Malzahn’s contract lasts five years, worth $2.3 million per season. That nearly triples Malzahn’s 2012 salary of $859,610 at Arkansas State, and is slightly higher than Chizik’s first-year pay when brought in from Iowa State for the 2009 season.

Sullivan, the committee’s spokesman, was adamant as to why the committee chose Malzahn over reported candidates such as Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Louisville coach Charlie Strong, TCU coach Gary Patterson and former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

“We wanted to find a coach with high character,” Sullivan said. “We wanted someone with great leadership abilities, that could attract a staff that would recruit and develop young men in all areas of their life, spiritually and academically as well as athletically.”

Malzahn’s continuity with the program – he recruited and fostered a vast majority of the current roster, filled with young players – doesn’t hurt, either. He will quickly reinstall his patented hurry-up, no-huddle offense which shattered school records in 2010 but was replaced by an ineffective pro-style attack in 2012.

“We know we have a lot of work coming back from a pro style into his style of offense,” sophomore tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “But I feel like it should be a smooth transition.”

Malzahn had a short team meeting at the football facilities before his official welcome, saying hello to many familiar faces.

“He’s an amazing man,” junior defensive end Nosa Eguae said. “He stands for everything Jay Jacobs and that whole committee was really looking for. When I heard the news, I knew exactly Coach Malzahn’s expectations, and it’s for greatness.”

The good cheer extended to future Tigers, as well. There has been much consternation surrounding the incoming recruits, who make up one of the nation’s highest-rated classes of 2013.

“I think it’s great,” Auburn High School five-star linebacker Reuben Foster, the Tigers’ top verbal commit, told AuburnUndercover.com. “I don’t know (Malzahn) but I’m looking forward to meeting him and building a relationship with him. I’m definitely still committed to Auburn.”

Defensive tackle Dee Liner, linebacker Cameron Toney, cornerback Kamryn Melton and safety Lemond Johnson also voiced their support of Malzahn’s hire to the web site. This is notable, considering they’re each defenders and Malzahn’s reputation is firmly on the offensive side of the ball.

Carver-Montgomery four-star quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who during football season went on record as saying he’d open his recruitment if and when Chizik was fired, tweeted simply, “War Eagle!!!!!!!!”

In the past 83 years, Auburn has had 10 different head coaches. Only two had never been a head coach at the college level before – Ralph “Shug” Jordan and Doug Barfield – while the other 8 had at least three years of head coaching experience before guiding the Tigers.

Gogue: Decision announced within 24 hours (report from two Montgomery TV stations)

AUBURN, Ala. — Two separate Montgomery TV stations report Auburn is close to announcing a head coach.

WSFA 12 News and WAKA CBS 8 spoke to Auburn president Jay Gogue at a Kiwanis meeting in Montgomery, and WSFA’s official accounted tweeted Gogue told them, “late today or tomorrow we will be in a position to announce a coach.”

At this moment, Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart appear to be the leading candidates. Others considered include Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, TCU’s Gary Patterson and former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

December 3, 2012

Where are potential Auburn candidates going bowling?

AUBURN, Ala. — More than a week has passed since Auburn began its search for the next head football coach.

Now that bowl pairings are finalized, it’s time to take a look at where the principal candidates – at least based on rumored and reported interest – are heading with their current schools. It is presumed that if Auburn hires an active head coach (Bobby Petrino is currently unemployed), that coach would join Auburn immediately and forego his current team’s postseason preparation.

It’s worth noting four of the five currently-working coaches on Auburn’s likely short list won conference championships this season, and three are preparing for BCS bowls.

Coaches are solely ordered chronologically by the date of their bowl.

GARY PATTERSON

TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.) ~ Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET ESPN

JIMBO FISHER

No. 12 Florida State (11-2) vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois

Orange Bowl (Miami, Fla.) ~ Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

CHARLIE STRONG

No. 21 Louisville (10-2) vs. No. 3 Florida

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans) ~ Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

GUS MALZAHN

Arkansas State (9-3) vs. No. 25 Kent State

GoDaddy.com Bowl (Mobile, Ala.) ~ Jan. 6, 9 p.m. ESPN

KIRBY SMART

No. 1 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 2 Notre Dame

BCS National Championship (Miami, Fla.) ~ Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

November 28, 2012

Report: Charlie Strong might be in contact with Auburn reps, denies talks to SI, Yahoo

AUBURN, Ala. — The interview process for Auburn’s next head football coach has begun with Charlie Strong, according to the Birmingham News.

Louisville’s head coach of the past three years, Strong, 52, has spent 21 years as an assistant in the SEC, including 2002-09 as Florida’s defensive coordinator. The News reported Wednesday night it was told by an unnamed sourced an Auburn representative has contacted Strong within the past two days, which might have been over the phone.

Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel tweeted Wednesday night following the report, “Just spoke to Charlie Strong. He’s angry. He says he did not interview at Auburn and has not spoken to them. ‘It’s not true.’” Later, Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde tweeted, “Charlie Strong, just now: ‘I didn’t interview with Auburn, I have a job.’”

The Cardinals (9-2) play at Rutgers Thursday night on ESPN at 7:30 ET. Louisville announced earlier Wednesday it will move from the Big East to the ACC in 2014. Athletic director Tom Jurich has said in recent months he will financially support Strong, currently making a $2.3 million salary, whatever he needs to stay at the school. Six of the highest-paid coaches entering this year in college football belong to the SEC.

Strong is 23-15 since 2010 at Louisville, and previously spent time at South Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Gene Chizik was fired Sunday after four years at Auburn.

What becomes of Auburn’s assistant coaches? Most, if not all, will probably go elsewhere

AUBURN, Ala. — There’s a distinct likelihood none of the nine Auburn assistant coaches are back in 2013.

That’s the nature of regime changes. The coordinators and position coaches have been offered the opportunity to stick around in the interim by athletic director Jay Jacobs, and none have publicly announced their departure. Multiple assistants were spotted at the football facilities Tuesday — business as usual.

Whomever Auburn chooses to replace Gene Chizik, to be clear, will have the final say on who stays and who goes. In fact, Auburn University’s preliminary release announcing Chizik’s firing Sunday had already dictated the total staff’s buyout to tally $11.09 million (a figure which will be mitigated by future employment.

Here is a brief look at the status of the Tigers’ assistants, who collectively are running the show for the time being:

JAY BOULWARE, special teams coordinator/tight ends

Age: 40

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 16

What his future holds: Boulware is the only man who’s been on staff all six years Chizik has been a head coach. During that time, Boulware’s been an above-average special teams coach, so Chizik’s replacement would be wise to give him a look. Otherwise, maybe Boulware goes back somewhere in his native Texas.

JEFF GRIMES, offensive line

Age: 44

Salary: $400,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Grimes’ unit was plagued by youth and rocky health this year. If Grimes does leave – and he was spotted at the football complex Tuesday – perhaps he hooks up with beleaguered Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, his college coach at UTEP in the late 1980s, who could be looking for work himself.

SCOT LOEFFLER, offensive coordinator

Age: 38

Salary: $500,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: His first foray into running a major-college offense did not go well. Auburn finished its season averaging 305 yards a game, ranked 118th in the country and dead-last in the SEC. Quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier couldn’t stop getting sacked, Clint Moseley couldn’t throw downfield or stop getting hurt, and Jonathan Wallace couldn’t score against Georgia or Auburn. Probably a one-and-done on the Plains.

CURTIS LUPER, running backs/recruiting coordinator

Age: 46

Salary: $330,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Four seasons, four 1,000-yard tailbacks. Not too shabby. Luper could help establish Tre Mason as perhaps the SEC’s top runner. Luper is also hard at work to keep this No. 10-ranked recruiting class of 2013 together with Scotch tape. He is reportedly on the road soon, which would indicate Auburn’s not worried about NCAA investigations. Luper’s son, Auburn High quarterback Curtis Echols-Luper, is committed to Texas A&M.

WILLIE MARTINEZ, defensive backs

Age: 49

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 22

What his future holds: Like Grimes, inexperience and injury proved a nasty combination. Only one interception by the secondary is brutal, but at least the DBs contained top receivers, and Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones appear to have solid futures. Martinez is tied to the hip with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, as former colleagues at Georgia. He’s well-traveled, logging time at 11 different institutions since 1985.

MIKE PELTON, defensive line

Age: 41

Salary: $300,000

Seasons at Auburn: 2

Seasons in college coaching: 12

What his future holds: The lone Auburn grad of the group, he may want to stay specifically for that reason. Problem is, his linemen were disastrous in 2012 – the ends were inconsistent, and the tackles were underwhelming. If junior Corey Lemonier doesn’t leave to test the NFL waters, this unit is more enticing. Pelton likely won’t get a third chance to coach ‘em up.

TROOPER TAYLOR, wide receivers/assistant head coach

Age: 42

Salary: $425,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 19

What his future holds: He’s essentially the godfather of the existing and future players. Verbal commits have hinted if Trooper goes, they go. His value is less in his coaching duties – the wide receivers not named Emory Blake were nonexistent in their impact – and more in his recruiting connections. Along with Luper, if Auburn has signed off on them traveling, the reported NCAA inquiries might not be serious. Players love him, but his backward-hat, towel-waving act may be wearing thin on fans.

TOMMY THIGPEN, linebackers

Age: 42

Salary: $320,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: Tackling continues to be an issue regardless of the coordinator, which could be a question for Thigpen if he stays on. He’s another employee whose stock remains high on the recruiting front. His kinship with Gus Malzahn could be a factor if the former Auburn offensive coordinator is brought back to the Plains.

BRIAN VANGORDER, defensive coordinator

Age: 53

Salary: $850,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college/NFL coaching: 24

What his future holds: “I’m more interested in getting better and making sure our culture is one to play championship football in the future.” That was part of VanGorder’s impassioned rant Oct. 13 after Ole Miss hung 41 on the Tigers. He once was spared blame for this horrendous season when the defense at least played somewhat capably against Clemson and LSU. But the way Auburn finished — letting Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama positively have their way with the Tigers — casts doubt on whether VanGorder makes sense to get a reprieve in 2012. He’s got too much cachet not to land on his feet if he is dismissed, but overseeing the worst defense in school history (420.5 yards) is a black mark on the resume.