Update, 2:28 p.m.: per this tweet from AL.com's Brandon Marcello, Auburn feels they have a deal.
Auburn expects Kevin Steele to be the next defensive coordinator, a high-placed source tells @aldotcom. https://t.co/AYCtJ0ttN8— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) December 30, 2015
At least one discussion with a source expects Steele to leave. Will update when I have more information.
So, apparently overnight Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, Chris Low of ESPN and Football Scoop all received word that Auburn has made a major effort to hire LSU's defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to a significant contract.
Steele had just wrapped up his first year as LSU's defensive coordinator with mixed results, but had helped, along with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, secure a big-time recruiting class that as of now
sits at 5th in the 247 Sports Composite (whoops, 2015 ranking -- LSU is 2nd) and was expected to go up.
After a quick phone call, everything I've heard aligns with Dellenger's latest. Basically, Auburn has made a big offer, Steele is inclined to take it and Les Miles is working to try and keep him.
This comes at a desperate time for Auburn and Gus Malzahn, playing in the Birmingham Bowl later today, following Will Muschamp's abrupt departure and several high-profile snubs from some big-name coordinators. Best guess is that Malzahn figures he can weaken a division rival and get somebody that can start to bolster Auburn's woeful talent on that side of the ball.
From Steele's standpoint, it's probably a push for a final, big-money guaranteed deal that could set him up for retirement. He's making good money here, but a $1.2-1.3 million deal from Auburn with three fully guaranteed years (even if Malzahn is fired after 2016, which I think most expect right now) would be a nice chunk of change. By the time the deal is over he'd be well into his 60s and maybe ready to call it a career. Remember, Steele's contract with LSU would dissolve if Miles would leave for any reason.
Regardless of your opinion on Steele at the moment, this comes at an awkward time for LSU as the staff has to be ready to close out a class that he played a huge role in putting together, particularly on defense and at linebacker with three current commits and the expected re-commitment of Michael Divinity. The main responsibility for keeping this together will fall on Orgeron, Bradley Dale Peveto (those who are desperate for him to leave are just going to have to deal with that) and Corey Raymond.
As for a replacement, Miles will need to act quickly. Orgeron is an obvious choice, but the questions would be in his experience in running a defense, which is limited, and how that could possibly distract from his two greatest strengths as a coach -- his abilities as a recruiter and skill as a developer of defensive linemen. Those are not small factors to consider. And of course, if you don't give him the job, is that a blow to his ego? Miles will have to balance those factors.
I'll try to rustle up a list of names later on. In the meantime, who would have thought that after this season, Steele would be moving on while it looks closer and closer to reality that Cam Cameron will be sticking around at LSU?