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Funny how the news cycle works sometimes.
A few weeks ago, Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin was turning over and over in the cycle as he was supposedly about to get fired amid a rash of roster and coaching staff exits following a 6-7 season that ended with five straight losses.
Much was made of the fact that his just-hired offensive coordinator Austin Davis announced his resignation on Jan. 31 after just a few weeks in Auburn, Alabama under Harsin. He said he left for “personal reasons.”
Well, at least, Davis was not Harsin’s brother.
Lost for the most part in the tumbling dirty laundry at Auburn — which did not finish the cycle until Feb. 11 when Harsin was kept — was the fact that Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin’s younger brother Chris Kiffin left his co-defensive coordinator job at Ole Miss on Feb. 10. This was after just 24 days to return to his previous job as Cleveland Browns’ defensive line coach. He was hired by Ole Miss on Jan. 17.
Counting the number of days as a hire, Davis was actually an Auburn assistant for significantly longer as he accepted the job on Dec. 18 while still the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback coach and stayed on through the end of the NFL regular season.
Ole Miss only this week replaced the younger Kiffin, 40, with Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Maurice Crum Jr., 35. Crum is expected to be co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach with returning co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Partridge.
The reason Kiffin returned to the Browns, according to ESPN’s Chris Low, who basically never gets anything wrong, “centered on the NFL’s work schedule being more conducive to raising a family.” Kiffin is married with four children.
That’s a good point. But the problem is it was a good point when Kiffin left the Browns, too. The schedule didn’t change with Cleveland and the recruiting and spring football schedule that is in college and not in the NFL also did not change between the time he left Cleveland and started at Ole Miss.
Perhaps the younger Kiffin didn’t realize just how much the current NCAA transfer portal and the new Name, Image and Likeness rules have impacted the day-to-day life of the college football coach. The season never ends, but again the portal and NIL were in full swing when Kiffin decided to leave the Browns.
And Kiffin does have experience working under his older brother. He was Lane Kiffin’s defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic in 2017.
At any rate, it’s a curious change. Davis, meanwhile, is still out of coaching, so it apparently wasn’t all Harsin, if it was ever Harsin at all. Maybe it was personal.
Kiffin made a great defensive coordinator hire two years ago in D.J. Durkin, who had been fired as Maryland’s coach. Durkin improved the Rebels drastically in total defense from 2020 to 2021 – from No. 126 nationally out of 127 programs with 519 yards a game to No. 97 with 420 a game, from No. 125 in passing yards allowed with 312 a game to No. 68 with 230 a game and from No. 117 in points allowed at 38.3 to No. 51 at 24.7. And Ole Miss finished 10-3. But Durkin left for more money at Texas A&M, which will not be hurt by any luxury tax.
Crum is not nearly as experienced as Durkin, who was a defensive coordinator at Michigan and Florida, and not as experienced as Kiffin, who was an NFL assistant for four years and as previously said was a defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic. Crum was Western Kentucky’s defensive coordinator for just one season. He was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame under then-coach Brian Kelly and was a cornerbacks coach at Indiana State in 2016 before coaching linebackers at Western Kentucky from 2017-19 and serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2020.
In the meantime, Ole Miss and Kiffin have done one of the better jobs with negotiating the transfer portal. And that may have hurt Kiffin doing better with the annual coaching transfer portal.