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Career decisions 101: Kevin Steele from LSU to Auburn

Updated on October 12, 2017 at 10:23 AM Posted on October 12, 2017 at 9:30 AM


Gallery: Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele


By Kevin Scarbinsky


Stranger things tend to happen when you go to LSU. Few visitors know that quirky fact of Death Valley life quite like Auburn does.

Kevin Steele knows it, too.

The last time the Auburn defensive coordinator coached a game in Tiger Stadium was Nov. 28, 2015. He was the LSU defensive coordinator. His boss, Les Miles, a man he respects, a head coach he'd hoped would be his last boss, was all but gone.

That night, Steele's LSU defense held Texas A&M to one touchdown in a rousing victory. Miles' job was saved- temporarily.

Come Saturday, neither head coach will be in position to be terminated, but if Auburn tosses a little more dirt on Ed Orgeron, Steele's defense is likely to have its fingerprints on the shovel.

Oh, and to bring the bizarre full circle, Miles will be there as a witness as LSU honors his 2007 national championship team.

Let the weird times roll.

Head to Head: Auburn vs LSU

AL.com's Lauren Sisler and Kevin Scarbinsky make their predictions and discuss storylines surrounding Auburn's week 7 matchup with LSU.

As Steele returns to familiar territory, Auburn finds itself in a different place as it tries to snap its eight-game Tiger Stadium losing streak. The visiting Tigers are favored, they're ranked No. 10 while LSU is unranked and they have the better defense.

LSU fans who celebrated Steele's move to Auburn after his one so-so season in Baton Rouge - like Auburn fans skeptical of his hire - have been forced to reassess. Dave Aranda has done a quality job at LSU, but for all the well-deserved praise thrown at him, Steele's defense is ranked higher nationally this year in three of the four major statistical categories.

Scoring defense: Auburn No. 6 (13 ppg), LSU No. 26 (18.8)

Total defense: Auburn No. 13 (287.5 ypg), LSU No. 18 (308.8)

Rush defense: Auburn No. 22 (111.2 ypg), LSU No. 52 (137.3)

Pass defense: LSU No. 18 (171.5 ypg), Auburn No. 20 (176.3)


For the last year and a half, Steele and the rest of Auburn's mostly veteran defensive staff have built the best unit this program has seen since Tommy Tuberville emphasized that side of the ball a decade ago.

The Tigers were the last FBS team this season to give up more than 14 points in a game, a streak that didn't end until Ole Miss found the end zone twice in the fourth quarter of last week's 44-23 Auburn romp. And to think Steele might not be at Auburn had his LSU defense not stood up for Miles at a critical time.

Auburn has a curious top-10 history under Gus Malzahn

The Tigers were ranked in the top 10 for 18 of Gus Malzahn's first 29 games as head coach. They've been a top-10 team in only one of his last 30 games.

Steele has the savvy of a man who's coached college football for 3 1/2 decades, who's been hired by the likes of Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban twice. Steele knew exactly what it meant, near the end of his one-and-only season in Baton Rouge, when LSU tried to fire Miles in November of 2015 but failed.

It was only a matter of time until the hit men would return to finish the job.

After an LSU insider confided as much to him that December, Steele began to weigh his options. One realistic alternative: Retire. Simply retire. He had no desire to watch Miles twist in the wind any longer.

Then Gus Malzahn called. Auburn needed another in a long series of defensive coordinators after Will Muschamp got a second head coaching shot at South Carolina.

Steele and Auburn had a lot to give each other. Steele offered vast coaching and recruiting experience in the SEC and beyond and a keen understanding of how Auburn's chief SEC West rivals operated from his days in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge. Auburn offered prime recruiting territory, a recent history of championships and family members in the area.

It's turned out to be a perfect fit.

In keeping with the bizarro world that is Auburn vs. LSU, Miles' last game was last year's 18-13 loss on the Plains when LSU's last-second touchdown came a second too late. Steele's Auburn defense won the day when the home Tigers couldn't muster a touchdown of their own.

The next day, LSU fired Miles and stuck to it. A year later, LSU still has all kinds of issues after promoting Orgeron from interim coach to the top job. Meanwhile, Auburn has paved a road toward what could be a special season.

As for Steele, he left a mess and found new life. Career decisions don't get much smarter.

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13 minutes ago, lkeel75 said:

@aubiefifty why put this in recruiting forum?  Seems like this would be better in main football forum.

Interesting article though.

Agreed, cool article, and it should be in the regular football forum.

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I was one of the guys that got a lil pissy when we didn't get to have WM as our DC for at least a couple years, but Steele has done an awesome job.

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I am here to announce I was not happy at the Steele hire at all and I was very vocal about it. If everyone wants to throw internet bricks at my head go for it. I totally deserve it.

I could not be happier that Steele is our DC and major props to Gus for making the great hire at a time when our defense was at a crossroads.

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Lost my got dang mind when Muschamp left. Was never mad at the guy, just figured there was no way we'd fill that gaping hole. 

I'm going to stand behind @Tiger and hope that all the internet bricks hit him first. 

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Did anyone see the in-screen reaction of Steele after the pick six during the Mississippi State game? Almost none?. A couple of claps and back to his notes! I love this part of his personality. No rah rah....just business 

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2 hours ago, McLoofus said:

Lost my got dang mind when Muschamp left. Was never mad at the guy, just figured there was no way we'd fill that gaping hole. 

I'm going to stand behind @Tiger and hope that all the internet bricks hit him first. 

Luckily was not in that crowd. Just think AU is better off without kooky Muschamp. A one year return was plenty.

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  • WarTiger changed the title to Steele from LSU to Auburn


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