Inside Bryan Harsin's first month as Auburn football coach and what comes next

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

A typical day for Bryan Harsin during his first month as Auburn's football coach started at 5:30 a.m. and didn't end until nearly 11:30 p.m.

He spent the better part of those 18 hours talking. With coaches via FaceTime, trying to vet whether they would be good fits for the staff he was putting together. With Auburn's players, trying to shake their hands and form relationships. With recruits, too, making sure he and his staff took none of them for granted.

"It’s really been about getting the right people, trying to make the right connections and doing that in a way that those first impressions are extremely important," Harsin said via Zoom on Thursday. "We’re not there yet. There’s still a lot of connections we have to make. There’s still a lot of things we have to do as far as getting this thing where we want it."

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Harsin completed his first big task on Thursday, though, when he hired Bert Watts to coach outside linebackers and coordinate special teams. That move completes a 10-man staff of on-field assistants.

"The cohesiveness is being built," Harsin said. "It’s awesome to watch these guys work together."

Now, Auburn really can get into next phase of the build toward the 2021 season: "Install and establish the culture and the things we want to do schematically with our guys and really start diving into getting prepared."

Bryan Harsin's Auburn football coaching staff

Auburn has done some of that. Harsin said coaches had a chance Sunday to introduce themselves and their families more formally to players and address the team.

During cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge's three- to four-minute speech, which likely covered his journey back from a broken neck to captain the Tigers' 2010 national championship team, Harsin said "the hair on the back of my neck stood up."


The work truly begins Monday, though, when players will begin their offseason conditioning program, led by new strength coach Jeff Pitman, who followed Harsin from Boise State.

The now-completed coaching staff, meanwhile, will continue its efforts on the recruiting trail. Auburn signed only 11 players during December's early signing period andhas double-digit scholarships it can offer before national signing day Feb. 3.

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Harsin outlined Auburn's needs as "Offensive line, running back, corner, safety, defensive backfield, linebacker, D-line," so, pretty much everything. He said there's a good chance some of those scholarships might be held to see how things play out in the transfer portal with the proposed one-time transfer rule set to be voted on by the NCAA at some point.

Bryan Harsin talking with members of local media at his press conference in Auburn on Dec. 24, 2020.

Then there are the football decisions: Harsin said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will call the plays on offense, but they still need to blend their philosophies together and come up with exactly what that offense will be. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason's scheme is multiple, so he'll need to take stock of what players the Tigers have and figure out where they fit best.

"The offensive and defensive staff rooms are right next to each other, so now the coaches are listening a little bit to what the defense and offense is doing," Harsin said. "That’s the fun part about putting things in and being able to go compete against each other in the spring."

Practice will start sometime in mid-March, Harsin said, with plans for the annual A-Day spring game not yet finalized. There is plenty of work to be done before then.

"It’s probably never quick enough for anyone," Harsin said. "But now that we have a chance to fill out our staff, get a few more positions, that’s going to give me an opportunity now to get out and do some more things as far as what we have to accomplish."

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.