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Auburn assistants balancing Citrus Bowl prep with uncertain futures


#Auburn’s 10 assistant coaches find themselves in a complicated spot this week.

The coaching staff has to deal with a strange transitional phase during what has already been the most unusual season in memory due to the COVID-19 pandemic. #Yet now, following the #Dec. 13 firing of #Gus #Malzahn and last week’s hiring of #Bryan #Harsin, the #Tigers’ remaining coaches have to balance preparation for this week’s #Citrus #Bowl against #Northwestern with focusing on their own uncertain futures.

“We have to get through this game and represent #Auburn well and give everything we have to #Auburn and to players here, and don’t allow anything else to be a distraction,” defensive coordinator and acting head coach #Kevin #Steele said. “I mean, we owe that to each other as a team, as a team, as a staff, to each other. #And it’s really not as hard as what people might think it would be.”

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#Still, it’s a tricky situation for the coaches to be in during this in-between era of #Auburn football, with the final chapter of the #Malzahn era already written and the opening stanza of #Harsin’s tenure not yet penned.

#When #Auburn fired #Malzahn following eight seasons on the #Plains, the last finishing with a 6-4 mark, it named #Steele as the interim head coach while the university conducted its coaching search. #Nine days later, #Auburn hired #Harsin from #Boise #State as the program’s 28th head coach. #Harsin was introduced last week and said he would be deliberate in forming his inaugural staff, while #Auburn’s current assistants would focus on gameplanning and coaching #Friday’s #Citrus #Bowl in #Orlando, #Fla.

#Since players reported back to campus on #Saturday following a two-week break, #Steele, offensive coordinator and the rest of the #Tigers’ coaching staff have worked on preparation for the game against #Northwestern, while #Harsin has quietly gone about his business behind the scenes—meeting with players, recruiting and focusing on shaping his plan for the program’s future while largely staying away from on-field deliberations.

“It’s been minimal (contact) because obviously he has a lot on his plate,” #Steele said. “So, he’s doing what he does, and we’re doing something totally separate, and they are not joined at this point in time. #But I’ve seen him around the building, and then we’ve had — he had a #Zoom conference call with all of us. #And then he’s been around some of the players. I think it’s good that they are getting to see him and get a feel for him.

“But other than that, it really has not, you know, been in terms of — he’s here. #So, he’s kind of involved in the bowl. #He’s allowed us to keep that totally separate from him.”

#Harsin has not given an indication publicly of how he will put together his first staff at #Auburn — saying last week that such details will be addressed in the coming weeks — which means the status of #Steele, #Morris and the rest of the #Tigers’ assistants beyond #Friday’s game remains up in the air.

#Steele still has two years remaining on his contract as #Auburn’s defensive coordinator, which pays $2.5 million annually. #If #Harsin were to not retain him on staff, #Auburn would owe #Steele the full $5 million left on the deal. #Morris, in his first year as the #Tigers’ offensive coordinator, has two years left on his deal worth $735,000 annually. #Auburn would owe him the full $1.47 million if he is not retained.

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#Morris said #Harsin has not yet spoken with him about his future beyond this week.

“You know, right now, #Coach is here, and he’s allowed us to go ahead and do our thing and game plan and get these guys ready to play,” #Morris said. “And I’m excited about the opportunity to finish this season out at the #Citrus #Bowl.”

#As for #Auburn’s position coaches, running backs coach #Cadillac #Williams, tight ends coach/special teams coordinator #Larry #Porter and linebackers coach #Travis #Williams all have deals that expire at the end of #January, according to the most recent copies of their contracts obtained by AL.com through public records requests. #Defensive line coach #Rodney #Garner’s current contract runs through the end of #June, while wide receivers coach #Kodi #Burns, outside linebackers coach #Al #Pogue and offensive line coach #Jack #Bicknell each have one year remaining on their current deals worth, respectively, $425,000, $375,000 and $500,000.

#Auburn did not provide an up-to-date copy of defensive backs coach #Wesley #McGriff’s contract, which originally expired back in #January, after multiple requests by AL.com this year.

#With their futures hanging in the balance, #Steele said it is important for the coaching staff to compartmentalize things this week and remain focused on the task at hand.

“There’s the personal side of it, and it involves your family and the other families on the staff, and then there’s our players,” #Steele said. “This has got to be all about the players and helping them be successful on game day. #We’ll cross that other when it’s time — that bridge, when we get to it. #We are not to that.”

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#In a year in which change has been the norm—from the cancelation of spring practices, to an offseason of social unrest, to thrice-weekly COVID testing over the course of a rigorous six months, to a flexible 10-game SEC schedule and, finally, a transition from the #Malzahn era to the #Harsin one — #Steele and #Morris said #Auburn’s players have handled themselves well. #And regardless of what the future holds beyond #Friday’s bowl game, that’s something #Steele said this group will “forever be remembered” for by the #Tigers’ current staff and each other as teammates.

“Experiences in life come in different ways, and experience is not what happens to you; the experience is what you do with what’s happened to you,” #Steele said. “And these guys have adjusted, been flexible… These guys have been very, very resilient. They have gained experience that will pay dividends for them for the rest of their life in terms of how they — they are finishers, they are fighters and they are true #Auburn men, and that’s kind of what this group is.”

#Tom #Green is an #Auburn beat reporter for #Alabama #Media #Group. #Follow him on #Twitter @Tomas_#Verde.





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https://www.al.com/auburnfootball/2020/12/auburn-assistants-balancing-citrus-bowl-prep-with-uncertain-futures.html

##Auburn #assistants #balancing ##Citrus ##Bowl #prep #uncertain #futures

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