Well, as reports continued to get stronger through the day, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed in the post-game press conference of the Birmingham Bowl, that the Other Tigers had hired away LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Malzahn confirms Kevin Steele will be Auburn's next defensive coordinator. Praised his work ethic, character. Didn't take questions on that.— Matthew Stevens (@matthewcstevens) December 30, 2015
This marks the second year in a row that another SEC West program has poached an LSU coordinator, although I'm doubtful that nearly as many fans will be worried about Steele's departure as they were John Chavis's last year. Looks like there's going to be an awkward flight home from Houston for the Tigers.
Talking with some sources, this basically came down to Steele's life after coaching. His brother is an associate athletic director at Auburn, he has some tenure in the State of Alabama retirement system, and he could be fully vested in a few years at Auburn. Per a source, Steele may desire an athletic administration job once he's done with coaching, and with his relationships at both Alabama schools (he's also very close with both Nick Saban and Alabama AD Bill Battle), finishing his career in that state makes sense.
A fully guaranteed contract may also be a factor, as his deal at LSU would run out should Les Miles leave for any reason in the next few years. And after the last few months, that's something we have to consider as a possibility.
This is tough timing for LSU in terms of finding a replacement, and timing will be important. Steele was a key cog in LSU's fantastic recruiting class, so it will be on Ed Orgeron, Bradley Dale Peveto and Corey Raymond to help hold the class together until National Signing Day.
Ultimately, I'm somewhat ambivalent on the move. Steele had done a fantastic job on the recruiting trail, both from a nuts-and-bolts recruiting aspect and administratively, really empowering all of his resources to find talent, including lesser-known guys like Peveto that proved incredibly valuable in this cycle. Still, the defense did regress somewhat this year, and it regressed in ways that lined up with some of the concerns we had with Steele when he was hired. I do think that there were some personnel issues that we didn't see coming, though. Still, the thought of a bidding war to keep Steele wasn't all that appetizing either.
Orgeron will be the first name many cite for the job, with LSU hiring another assistant to either coach linebackers, or sliding Peveto to that full-time and hiring a new special teams coach. I have some concerns on whether that's the best use of Orgeron's value, but we'll discuss that down the road, along with some names to watch for. Spitballing a few names, watch for North Carolina's Gene Chizik, Wisconsin's Dave Aranda or Florida State's Charles Kelly. Raymond has also earned an interview, in my opinion.
We'll do our best to stay on top of this and have more information as it becomes available.