Bad things happen at Auburn when allowing 55 points in a loss to Alabama, especially if you’re the man in charge of the defense. And now less than 24 hours after the Tide hung half-a-hundred on the Tigers, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is out, as first reported by FootballScoop.com and confirmed by AuburnUndercover.com.
After starting this season 5-0, Auburn went 2-4 down the stretch in SEC games. And it was almost all the defense’s fault. The Tigers gave up 39 points a game in those half-dozen games, and surrendered 38, 41, 34 and 55 points in their four losses.
They also ranked 10th or lower in total defense and yards per play allowed in the 14-team SEC in conference games.
Johnson was an original member of Malzahn’s staff at Auburn, helping the Tigers reach the BCS National Championship last season. He spent one (winless) season as Southern Miss’ head coach in 2012, and spent eight seasons coordinating defenses at Mississippi State and South Carolina before that.
Former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and former LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini figure to be obvious candidates to replace Johnson, but FootballScoop reports UAB head coach Bill Clark could be in the mix if the Blazers do indeed shut down their football program.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Auburn defensive coordinator is the latest assistant to join college football’s burgeoning $1 million coordinator club. Considering what happened on the field in Tuscaloosa last night and the investment their chief rivals have made in their offensive play-callers, Auburn almost can’t afford not to break the bank.
7:21 p.m. ET Update: The firing is now official.
“At this time I felt it was best for our program to make a change with our defensive coordinator,” Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “Ellis is a true professional and I would like to thank him for his contributions at Auburn.”
“This is part of the business and I totally understand,” added Johnson. “I did think we were good in several areas, but overall it wasn’t good enough. I’m disappointed for our players, but this is a results business. I want to thank Coach Malzahn and Auburn for the opportunity the last two years.”