AUBURN — Gus Malzahn’s right-hand men are getting their own right-hand men.
Auburn officially announced the hiring of Clemson co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison to the same position on Sunday. Harbison, 53, reunites with defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and will be his “right-hand man”; the duo worked together at Alabama (2000) and Mississippi State (2007).
“Charlie is an outstanding coach and recruiter and we’re excited to have him join our staff,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “He’s very familiar with coach Ellis Johnson, having coached together on two different staffs, which will be a tremendous asset to our defense. He is a true professional and one of the class guys in college coaching.”
Harbison was named one of nation’s top 25 recruiters by Rivals in 2010 and helped Clemson to back-to-back 10-win seasons, including the 2011 ACC Championship and a 10-2 record this season. He has spent the past four seasons at Clemson and also served as defensive backs coach from 1995-97.
“I’m looking forward to joining coach Gus Malzahn’s staff at Auburn,” Harbison said in a statement. “Having coached against Auburn on several occasions, I’m very familiar with the great success and tradition associated with the program. This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family.”
Terms of Harbison’s contract were not immediately available. He is the third assistant coach hired under Malzahn after Johnson and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
No. 14 Clemson ranks 74th nationally in total defense, allowing 411 yards per game including 250.33 passing yards (81st). By contrast, Auburn allowed in 420.5 yards in total defense (80th) including 222.92 passing yards (46th).
The Auburn secondary returns nearly all of its starting personnel, losing only defensive back T’Sharvan Bell to graduation. At corner, junior Chris Davis, sophomore Jonathan Mincy as well as freshmen Jonathan Jones and Josh Holsey return and sophomores Jermaine Whitehead and Trent Fisher and juniors Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith return at safety.
The secondary ranked 100th in pass efficiency against (145.68) and had just one interception — a 60-yard INT return touchdown by Fisher against Alabama A&M — as the Tigers defense tied for last nationally with just two interceptions.
Clemson defeated Auburn 26-19 in the season opener. Kiehl Frazier went 11-for-27 for 194 yards with a touchdown and interception in that game.
The Clemson secondary was ranked in the top 26 in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2009 and 2010, led by first-team All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel in 2009 and 2010. McDaniel led the ACC and was tied for third in the nation in interceptions (8) in 2009.
Harbison helped Clemson to a top-25 ranking and the ACC Atlantic Division title in 2009. Clemson had 21 interceptions, fifth-most in Tiger history and tied for fifth-most in the nation, while ranking seventh in the nation in passing defense.
At Mississippi State, where Harbison was defensive coordinator and safeties coach, the Bulldogs were seventh nationally in pass defense and 20th in pass efficiency defense in 2007.
Harbison coached the Alabama secondary from 1998-2000 and wide receivers in 2003-06. In 21 years of coaching, Harbison has spent 12 with defensive backs and nine with wide receivers.