Auburn football teaser

Sep 1, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers cheerleader waves a flag against the Washington Huskies in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

AUBURN — Gus Malzahn's newest defensive assistant will be the same as one of his most recent defensive assistants.

Wesley McGriff has been hired to rejoin Auburn's coaching staff after two seasons serving as the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, the university announced Wednesday morning. McGriff spent one season as the Tigers' defensive backs coach in 2016, and is returning to serve as a "defensive assistant," according to a news release.

"I'm very appreciative and excited to be rejoining Coach Malzahn and the staff at Auburn," McGriff said in a statement. "Auburn is a program with outstanding players, coaches and tradition. Coach Malzahn is a great coach and leader and I look forward to helping Auburn win championships."

He takes the place of Greg Brown, who joined Malzahn's staff after McGriff left for the Rebels following the 2016 season. Brown has reportedly been hired to serve in the same role at Purdue, though neither school has made any announcements confirming his status.

Brown was one of two defensive backs coaches on Auburn's 2018 staff along with Marcus Woodson, who was hired as the team's 10th assistant prior to the season. The former focused on safeties and the latter cornerbacks, but both worked together more often than not.

"We're excited to have Wesley return to our program," Malzahn said in a statement. "He is an outstanding coach and recruiter. He brings great passion and energy and will be a great fit with our defensive staff."

McGriff's first stint with the Tigers coincided with the arrival of Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator. In terms of raw numbers that season, the success of Auburn's pass defense was similar to the year before, actually falling from 63rd nationally allowing 222.3 yards per game to 67th allowing 229.2.

But the Tigers' overall defensive success improved drastically, as they allowed 10.4 fewer points per game and held opponents to a 34-percent conversion rate on third downs (down from 44.9 percent) and 34.2-percent touchdown rate in the red zone (down from 51 percent.

McGriff's secondary recorded 10 interceptions and ranked sixth nationally with 80 passes defended.

Auburn's pass defense under Brown and Woodson ranked 75th nationally surrendering 222.5 yards per game in 2018 and struggled at times with keeping the top on the coverage, allowing 23 passing plays of 30 or more yards. It allowed just 16 such plays under McGriff in 2016.

The Tigers did, though, rank 24th nationally with 14 interceptions, which is more than double they had the season before.

Some of the players who were big parts of that secondary tweeted well-wishes to Brown over the past two days.

"Thanks for everything coach.. we will miss you!!" cornerback Noah Igbinoghene tweeted.

"Thank you GB and We appreciate Everything you’ve done. Will be missed!" cornerback Javaris Davis wrote.

"Thanks a lot coach we will miss you," safety and Montgomery native Daniel Thomas said.

McGriff coached both Davis and Thomas as freshmen during the 2016 season. Those two and Igbinoghene are just a few of the impact players Auburn has returning in the secondary, along with Jeremiah Dinson, Jordyn Peters, Smoke Monday, Jamien Sherwood, Christian Tutt and Roger McCreary.

Though McGriff was announced as simply a "defensive assistant" it stands to reason that he would coach defensive backs, as that is the only defensive position he has worked with during his career.

That career began at Savannah State (1990-94) and included stops at Kentucky State (1995-99), Eastern Kentucky (2000), Kentucky (2001-02), Baylor (2003-06), Miami (2007-10), Vanderbilt (2011), Ole Miss (2012) and the NFL's New Orleans Saints (2013-15) before he first arrived at Auburn in 2016. McGriff served as a key recruiter at the majority of those stops at the college level.

The defenses he coordinated at Ole Miss ranked 13th in the SEC allowing 34.6 points per game in 2017 and last allowing 36.2 points per game in 2018. He was fired from that role on Nov. 23 of last year.

It was reported in January that McGriff was expected to join Florida State's staff, but that hire was never made official. His son, Jaylen McGriff, is a realtor in the Lake Martin area.

There has been no reason given for Brown's departure, though the two year contract he signed in 2017 did expire at the end of last month. He previously worked at Purdue from 1989-90, and his second stint with the Boilermakers will be his seventh different stop since 2010.

Brown was paid $400,500 last season, according to the USA Today assistant coach salary database. Ole Miss paid McGriff $1.1 million. Auburn did not immediately release terms of his deal to return.

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