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Auburn reportedly targets Ron Roberts as defensive coordinator

ByNATHAN KING 9 minutes ago

Hugh Freeze is reportedly close to securing his new defensive coordinator at Auburn.

Ron Roberts is expected to land the job, The Athletic's Bruce Feldman reported Sunday evening. Auburn Undercover noted Roberts, who spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Baylor, as a candidate to watch earlier in the day.

Roberts had a top-10 scoring defense at Baylor during the team’s Big 12 championship run in 2021, but was fired earlier this month after the Bears dropped off to an average unit this season.

A veteran defensive coach of more than 30 years, Roberts spent was the defensive coordinator at Louisiana from 2018-19, and is formerly the head coach at Delta State and Southeastern Louisiana.

“I hire the right guy and let him do his job,” Freeze said last week of his approach to coaching defense. “Truthfully, that’s it. I don’t get too involved other than wanting to know what’s going on in third down and red-zone defense. … I try to create the culture and the passion and the energy and the relationship with those kids. But I hire a defensive staff to get the job done.”

Roberts would be the fifth assistant hire for Freeze since taking over as Auburn's head coach, joining offensive line coach Jake Thornton, tight ends coach Ben Aigamaua, defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett and secondary coach Wesley McGriff

Fell off in 2022 but had a really good record before that.


Ron Roberts, a 31-year coaching veteran, enters his third season as Baylor’s defensive coordinator in 2022. He joined the program on Jan. 21, 2020, following two seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana. In addition to his role as defensive coordinator, he coaches the inside linebackers.

In 2021, Roberts’ defense helped BU to one of the most successful seasons in program history, capturing the program’s third Big 12 Title and it’s first BCS/New Year’s Six bowl win in the modern era.

The 2021 Bears defense buoyed Baylor’s success, leading the conference in interceptions (19), turnovers gained (27), turnover margin (0.93) and defensive touchdowns (3). Additionally, BU finished second in the Big 12 run defense (118.4 ypg), scoring defense (18.3 PPG), pass efficiency defense (121.54) and sacks per game (3.14).

Baylor’s defense was one of just three units in the country to limit every opponent to 30-points or fewer. En route to the Big 12 title, BU held Oklahoma to its lowest scoring (14) and yardage (260) outputs in 5 years under Lincoln Riley. Baylor became the first Big 12 team to hold OU without a passing TD since Nov. 22, 2014, which snapped a 65-game streak for the Sooners.

Roberts’ defense punctuated its impressive season with a dominant showing against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. The Bears held the Rebels’ high-powered offense to just seven points, which was 28.9 points below their season average. Its 10 sacks were a Sugar Bowl record, as was Al Walcott’s 96-yard interception return for a touchdown.

In 2020, Roberts’ first season leading Baylor’s defense, the unit finished second in the Big 12 Conference allowing only 203.0 passing yards per game and third with 17 forced turnovers. The Bears were second in the league with 12 interceptions, and allowed only 32 plays of 20+ yards on the year, the second fewest in the Big 12.

Longtime associates, Baylor head coach Dave Aranda served as defensive coordinator under Roberts at Delta State in 2007.

Roberts came to Waco from Louisiana-Lafayette where he has coordinated the defense since 2018. Under his leadership, the Ragin’ Cajuns led the Sun Belt Conference and ranked 18th nationally in scoring defense in 2019 allowing only 19.7 ppg, an improvement of 87 spots in the rankings and a difference of -14.5 ppg.

Overall, UL finished second in the Sun Belt in total defense (371.8 ypg) and had the league’s top red zone defense (51.16 percent) with only 22 touchdowns allowed in 43 attempts. His defense held opponents to a Sun Belt-leading 197.7 passing yards per game (No. 21, NCAA).

In two seasons at Louisiana, he had nine defenders earn All-Sun Belt honors. The program made two consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship game appearances and won a school-record 11 games in 2019 including a 27-17 bowl victory over Miami (Ohio).

Prior to joining Louisiana, he served as the head coach as Southeastern Louisiana. During his time at the helm of the SLU football program, Roberts led the Lions to two conference championships with a 42-29 overall record and a 35-14 Southland Conference mark.

The Lions won their second-straight Southland Conference championship in 2014, sharing the regular season title with Sam Houston State, following that season the Lions placed 16 players on the 2014 All-Southland Conference teams.

Under Roberts, the 2013 Lions won their first-ever Southland Conference championship and their first league title of any kind since 1961. Southeastern finished with an 11-3 overall record and 7-0 mark in league play, earning its first-ever FCS playoff berth and the No. 4 national seed. The single-season school record victory total propelled the Lions to a No. 6 ranking in the final FCS Coaches and Sports Network polls.  The 2013 squad had a school record 24 All-Southland Conference players.

Prior to SLU, Roberts spent five season at the helm of Division II Delta State where he led the Statesmen to a 47-16 record, four 10-win seasons and two NCAA Super Region II titles that included an appearance in the 2010 NCAA Division II national championship game and the 2011 semifinals.

A native of Visalia, Calif., Roberts led DSU to an 11-3 record in 2011.  The Statesmen led the GSC and finished 12th nationally with 463.7 yards per game while ranking 21st nationally in passing offense (282.7). DSU, which was ranked No. 1 nationally in the Division II polls for much of the season, paced the GSC in seven categories including total offense, scoring offense (33.4), total defense (336.6) and rushing defense (134.1).

In 2010, the Statesmen averaged 31.9 points and 452.9 yards of total offense per game. That combination propelled the Statesmen to an 11-4 overall record and a 6-2 mark in GSC play; giving the Statesmen a share of the GSC title for the third time in four years.

Roberts spent two seasons as defensive coordinator at DSU under former coach Rick Rhoades before becoming the school’s 17th head coach in 2007.

The successes of 2007 continued into 2008, where the Statesmen finished the season ranked second in the GSC (471.9 ypg) and sixth nationally.

Prior to joining the DSU staff, Roberts served one season as head coach at Mount Whitney (Calif.) HS, and the 2003 season as defensive coordinator at Texas State.

Roberts spent five seasons as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Tusculum College (1998-2002). Prior to joining the Tusculum staff, Roberts served as an assistant coach at Greensboro College in 1998 and was head coach at Burroughs High School (1994-96) in California.

Roberts is married to the former Didi Walker of Germantown, Tenn. The couple are the parents of three children; Reed, Reilly, and Ryan.

Edited by toddc
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