Coming off of the Auburn Tigers abysmal second half performance against the archrival Alabama Crimson Tide, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson took tremendous heat, enough to get head coach Gus Malzahn’s attention.
On Saturday, Johnson’s unit allowed an Iron Bowl record 55 points en route to an 11-point loss, so the next day, he was relieved of his duties. The hangover from Saturday’s drubbing was simply too much for Malzahn to digest as he fired Johnson from his staff.
Johnson was a key reason for the Tigers’ 2013 BCS Championship appearance, but has watched his group significantly regress during the 2014 campaign. In the brutal SEC, defense is a must and Johnson’s unit has simply not performed up to its abilities. The Auburn defense ranks 10th in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 26.1 points per game, while also giving up 388.6 yards per contest. After just two seasons with the team, Johnson will now look for new work, with a resume that includes 18 years of SEC experience to his credit.
It remains unclear which direction the Tigers will go now, but ESPN.com first reported mutual interest between recently fired Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and the school. It seems a bit premature to fill the void, but Muschamp would bring a strong understanding of the conference as well as the ability to recruit defensive talent to a program in need of a defensive boost. Still, the position is very wide open and should have plenty of top candidates as the Tigers aim to fill the position in time for the postseason.
The Tigers finish the season 8-4, on the outside looking in of the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff.
*Section Photo credit to John Reed, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Shanna Lockwood, USA Today Sports