Less than a month after being hired as the head coach of the Auburn football team, Bryan Harsin has been busy at work shaping his new staff.
To date, Harsin has filled seven out of the 10 available assistant coaching spots as he looks to take Auburn into the championship conversation year in and year out.
Harsin’s first hire may have also been his biggest as he chose to not retain Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator, opting to bring in former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.
Mason served on several college staffs in his early coaching days before landing a job as the defensive backs coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2007 to 2009. From 2010 to 2011, he coached defensive backs at Stanford before being dubbed the defensive coordinator for the 2012 season, a position he would hold for two seasons. In 2014, he became the head coach of Vanderbilt where he led the Commodores to two bowl game appearances over his seven seasons as head coach.
After making his pick for defensive coordinator, Harsin sought out his offensive coordinator. He found his ideal candidate in Mike Bobo.
Bobo began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Georgia before leaving to coach quarterbacks at Jacksonville State. He returned to Georgia in 2001 under Mark Richt to become the quarterbacks coach. After five seasons, Bobo was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position he served in from 2007 to 2014.
In 2015, Bobo was hired as the head coach of Colorado State, where he spent five seasons as the head coach, leading the Rams to three bowl game appearances during the stretch.
Bobo then went to South Carolina where he was named the offensive coordinator, and later the interim head coach after the firing of head coach Will Muschamp. Bobo finished out the final three games of the season before being hired by Harsin.
One of the most glaring issues facing Auburn the past few seasons has been the offensive line, and Harsin charged Will Friend to rectify the issue.
Friend, who spent the last three seasons as the offensive line coach at Tennessee, is a former Alabama All-SEC guard who got his coaching start as the offensive line coach at Gardner-Webb from 2005-2006.
He left for the same position at UAB, where he would spend four years. From 2011-2014, Friend was brought on as the offensive line coach at Georgia before leaving to become the offensive coordinator at Colorado State, under former head coach and now Auburn offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Friend was with the Rams for three seasons before being hired by Tennessee. In total, Friend has coached nine linemen who went on to be drafted to the NFL.
While Harsin has brought in a lot of fresh faces, he still chose to retain at least one Auburn staff member so far. Harsin chose to retain Cadillac Williams as the running backs coach. Williams was himself an Auburn running back from 2001-2004 before also seeing professional stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Saint Louis Rams. After his playing career, Williams was a graduate assistant at the University of West Georgia and the running backs coach for the IMG Academy and Birmingham Iron in the Alliance of American Football. He was hired as Auburn’s running backs coach in 2019.
Keeping the trend of hiring Auburn alumni, Harsin decided to bring on former Auburn safety Zac Etheridge to be the cornerbacks coach.
In his time at Auburn, Etheridge fought through debilitating injury to lead Auburn in their National Championship run a decade ago. Since then, he became a graduate assistant for Penn State and Georgia Tech before becoming the outside linebackers coach at Western Carolina. In 2018, he was hired as the cornerbacks coach at Louisiana before leaving to spend two seasons at the same position at the University of Houston.
To coach the inside linebackers, Harsin looked no further than his former assistant Jeff Schmedding, who spent the last two seasons as Boise State’s defensive coordinator before being hired as Auburn’s inside linebacker/defensive run game coordinator. Prior to his time at Boise State, Schmedding coached at Eastern Washington for 15 years, with the most recent four as defensive coordinator. Schmedding helped lead Eastern Washington to an FCS national championship in 2010.
Harsin's most recent hire has been another fellow Boise State coach in Brad Bedell, who will be coaching Auburn’s tight ends. Bedell played for the University of Colorado before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He played in the NFL from 2000-2006 before entering several minor assistant positions at various colleges.
Bedell then became the offensive line coach at Northern Colorado in 2010 and served in the same position at UC Davis, Arkansas State and Texas State. In 2017, he was hired as the offensive line coach at Boise State, where he stayed until following Harsin to Auburn.
Aside from hiring coordinators, Harsin has also made a couple moves on the Auburn staff. The first is Jeff Pitman, who Harsin brought on to be Auburn’s strength and conditioning coach. Pitman is only the third person to hold that position since the turn of the century.
The first hire made by Harsin, Pitman joins the staff after holding the same position at Boise State for the past seven years. He was also the strength and conditioning coach at Arkansas State alongside Harsin in 2013. This season will mark the ninth consecutive season of the pair working together.
Last but not least, Harsin hired Brad Larrondo to be Auburn’s chief of staff. Larrondo, a fellow Boise State graduate, has spent his entire 27-year career moving up the different levels of the Broncos' athletics and broadcasting fields. Larrondo arrives on the Plains after spending the last year-and-a-half as Boise State’s senior associate athletic director and football chief of staff.