AUBURN — Auburn reportedly interviewed Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart on Monday. Citing “people familiar with the process,” AL.com reported Auburn interviewed Smart, who just helped lead the No. 2 Crimson Tide to a 32-28 win over Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship game.
Smart, 36, has never been a head coach but has served as defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama since 2007. The Crimson Tide defense ranks best in the nation in total defense and rushing, second in scoring and sixth in pass defense this season.
Alabama, which will play for its third BCS Championship in four years Jan. 7 in Miami, also ranked best in nation in total defense last season under Smart.
Auburn’s defense had a poor season in 2012 under Gene Chizik, who was fired Nov. 25 following a 3-9 season — the worst in 60 years for the program, and first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was dismissed.
Auburn allowed 28.3 points per game this season, ranking 65th nationally and 9th in the SEC — barely improved from 2011’s program-worst 28.9 points. The Tigers allowed a school-record 420.5 yards per game, including a program-record 671 yards allowed against Texas A&M, and gave up an SEC-worst 197.6 rushing yards.
The Tigers were outscored 150-21 in their last three SEC games, including shutouts by Georgia (38-0) and Alabama (49-0), and allowed those final three conference opponents to score touchdowns on 16 of their 18 first-half possessions.
Other potential candidates for the Auburn coaching job include Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, TCU’s Gary Patterson, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. USA Today’s Danny Sheridan, citing an Auburn source, tweeted Malzahn was interviewed Sunday night.
AL.com and other outlets reported last week that Auburn had interviewed Strong, which he vehemently denied.
Auburn has been searching for its 26th head football coach since firing Chizik last week. The search committee includes Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs and alums Marc Crawford, Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson.