Bryan Harsin tabs Mike Bobo, Derek Mason as Auburn football coordinators
New Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin has no experience in the SEC. But that doesn't mean his staff won't.
Mike Bobo, a longtime assistant at Georgia and former Colorado State head coach who spent the 2020 season at South Carolina, will serve as offensive coordinator.
"I've wanted to work with Mike now for quite some time as he complements the many things we want to do with our offense," Harsin said. "We are going to be very versatile in what we do and Mike's offensive background speaks for itself. I'm really excited to combine forces with Mike as we create the Auburn offense, a high-powered, attacking and physical unit that will come at you in many ways."
Analysis:What Mike Bobo brings to Auburn
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt's coach from 2014-20, will serve as his defensive coordinator.
“Derek Mason is one of the best defensive minds in college football and his track record speaks for itself,” Harsin said. “I’ve always admired his ability to prepare his defenses and his approach with players on and off the field is outstanding. Having experience as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference is invaluable and he will bring a lot to our program. We’re fired up to have Coach Mason join the Auburn family.”
Analysis: What Derek Mason brings to Auburn
Bobo, 46, replaces Chad Morris, who spent just one season at Auburn. Bobo is perhaps most well-known for his time at Georgia, where he played quarterback from 1993-97 and coached on the offensive staff from 2001-14.
New South Carolina coach Shane Beamer decided to retain Bobo on his staff after being hired to replace Will Muschamp, but instead Bobo will take a position on a side of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry opposite of the one he's familiar with. He was set to make $1.2 million at South Carolina in 2021.
"I have a great amount of respect for Coach Harsin, both as a coach and as a person," Bobo said in a statement. "I competed against him for five years as a head coach and we've talked ball on numerous occasions over the years. I know what he's about and his commitment to excellence. I know that Auburn is a great community with a tremendous passion for and commitment to Auburn football. I'm excited to get started and look forward to helping Coach Harsin compete for championships."
Bobo went 28-35 at Colorado State – including 0-5 against Harsin's Boise State teams in Mountain West play – before he and the school mutually parted ways following the 2019 season. The Gamecocks offense ranked 10th in the SEC, averaging 5.6 yards per play and 23.5 points per game during his lone season in Columbia.
But Bobo led a number of successful offenses for Mark Richt at Georgia, where he served the quarterbacks coach from 2001-06 before adding offensive coordinator to his title in 2007. The Bulldogs had a top-five scoring offense in the SEC every season from 2010-14, averaging at least 31 points. They led the conference and ranked eighth nationally scoring 41.3 points per game in his final season there in 2014.
Bobo will reportedly bring with him offensive line coach Will Friend, who spent the last three seasons at Tennessee before joining South Carolina's staff just last month.
Mason, 51, replaces Kevin Steele, who held the position for five seasons before being promoted to interim coach in the wake of Gus Malzahn's Dec. 13 firing.
Mason's tenure leading the Commodores was ultimately not very successful. He went 27-55 overall and was fired Nov. 29, with only two bowl appearances (both losses) and no seasons above .500. But Nashville is a hard place to win – Vanderbilt has had only six seasons with six or more wins since 1982, and he led of two of them.
The Phoenix native is considered to be a strong defensive mind. Vanderbilt's defense ranked last in the SEC, surrendering 33.3 points per game, in Mason's first season as coach but improved enough to rank in the top of the half of the conference in 2015 and 2016, holding opponents to 24 or fewer.
Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt, Mason spent four seasons as part of Stanford's defensive staff, first under Jim Harbaugh (2010) and then David Shaw (2011-13), rising from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator and associate head coach.
The Cardinal ranked in the top 11 nationally in scoring defense in three of those four seasons, allowing no more than 22 points in any of them. Among those units' claims to fame: holding high-scoring Marcus Mariota-led Oregon offenses to just 14 and 20 points, respectively, in back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013.
“Auburn University is a special place with special people, and I’ve witnessed this in my time in the SEC,” Mason said. “I admire the school, the facilities, the traditions and the uniqueness of the community. Auburn has everything! Auburn embraces all that I believe in and I’m very appreciative of Coach Harsin, Director of Athletics Allen Greene, and the University Administration for this opportunity. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Harsin and I’m excited to hit the ground running.”
Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.