After disappointing Florida tenure, Muschamp returns to defensive roots

Will Muschamp will be sporting the Auburn orange and blue next season (©GettyImages)

It didn't take long for someone to chomp up Will Muschamp, even after the Florida Gators had lost their taste for the spirited coach.

Muschamp took a three-year deal worth about $1.6 million a year to join the Auburn Tigers, signing the most lucrative contract for a defensive coordinator in the country. He will still be paid a $6.3 million buyout from Florida owed to him for terminating his contract with three years remaining.

Familiar role

Auburn's head coach Gus Malzahn, an offensive genius, made Muschamp a target early in the game after firing previous coordinator Ellis Johnson after a disappointing season.

"He's got a proven track record," Malzahn said. "I love his energy. I'm an energy guy too."

Muschamp has long been one of the most coveted defensive minds in the game, after leading successful defenses at Auburn, Texas and LSU in previous years. But he lost some of his appeal in the last four years after leading the Gators to a disappointing 28-21 record, with only two bowl appearances.

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Still, Muschamp's faults were rarely on the defensive side of the ball. Instead, his offenses grew a reputation for inconsistent play.

Auburn's defensive struggles

Really, it began last season.

Auburn had made it to an unlikely spot in the final BCS Championship Game thanks to a high-flying offense and a Cinderella type of season. And with minutes left in the first half, the Tigers led the Florida State Seminoles 21-3.

Then the defense collapsed, allowing Florida State to score a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the first half. And then the Seminoles added score after score, with three touchdowns in the final quarter. The last play, a two-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin, put them up 34-31 with 13 seconds left.

Auburn's defense continued to collapse over this season, especially in the last four games, where the Tigers had three of their four losses. Those games were lost to Texas A&M (41-38), Georgia (34-7) and Alabama (55-44).

A once national title contending season has stumbled to an 8-4 record and an Outback Bowl berth. In the end, the Tigers were ranked 60th nationwide in points against, allowing more than 26 points per game for the year.

Muschamp's history

Despite his team's awful 6-5 record, Muschamp actually had a better defensive record. His team gave up only 21.2 points per game with the head coach doing a lot of the defensive play-calling. That mark ranked as the 24th-lowest in the country.

And Muschamp has a history of impressive success on the defensive side of the ball.

During LSU's national championship run in 2003, Muschamp led the nation in scoring defense (11 points per game) and total defense (252 yards per game). At Auburn in 2007, Muschamp's defense led the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense while finishing in the top 10 in four defensive categories.

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