Rebels Increase Energy, Physicality on Defense
Freeze on the 2017 Ole Miss Football Signing Class
Phil Longo from Sam Houston State as OC, Wesley McGriff from Auburn as DC
Freeze Transcript on the Hiring of Phil Longo and Wesley McGriff
Kiffin, McGriff, Harris Recognized Nationally For Recruiting Efforts
McGriff returns to Ole Miss after gaining valuable experience at the NFL level with the New Orleans Saints and as Auburn’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
In his one season at Auburn, McGriff helped guide the Tigers to a Sugar Bowl berth and helped turn around a defense that struggled during a 7-6 season (2-6 SEC) the year before he arrived.
With McGriff’s influence, Auburn went from the bottom third of the SEC in 2015 to top three in the league in 2016 in scoring defense (11th/26.0 to 2nd/15.6), rushing defense (11th/182.7 to 3rd/124.8) and third-down conversion defense (13th/44.9 to 2nd/34.0). The Tigers gave up far less explosive plays of 10+ yards (190 in 2015, 144 in 2016) and were locked down when it came to allowing touchdowns in the red zone (51.0 percent to 34.2 percent). Auburn ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense (17.1 ppg) and 11th in total red zone defense (74.4 percent) in 2016.
McGriff came to Auburn after three seasons with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, working with the defensive backs. In his first two years, McGriff oversaw the development of young players such as safeties Rafael Bush, Kenny Vaccaro and Pierre Warren and cornerback Terrence Frederick, as well as veterans like safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Keenan Lewis. In 2015, Lewis led the Saints with 13 passes defensed, while adding two interceptions. Vaccaro led the New Orleans secondary with 113 tackles and added one sack and two interceptions. McGriff also worked the undrafted rookie Warren into the starting lineup for the final six games due to injuries in the secondary and he responded, tying for the team lead with three takeaways.
In his first season in New Orleans, the Saints ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense (305.7 ypg), second in opponent passing yards per game (194.1 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (19.0 ppg), posting an 11-5 record and advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs.
McGriff spent 2012 as co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach at Ole Miss, helping the young Rebel defense finish second in the SEC and top 15 in the NCAA in tackles for loss (7.7) and sacks per game (2.8). Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was named to the FWAA All-America and SEC All-Freshman teams, defensive tackle Issac Gross earned conference all-freshman honors and was named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America team, and safety Trae Elston was named to the ESPN SEC All-Freshman team.
In his first season at Ole Miss, McGriff helped the Rebels go from 2-10 the year before to 7-6 and a win over Pitt in the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl.
McGriff spent the 2011 season as defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt, where he helped the Commodores to only their fifth all-time appearance in a bowl. His secondary produced 12 interceptions, three returns for touchdowns, eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage and more than 20 pass breakups. McGriff helped current San Diego Chargers CB Casey Hayward become the first Vanderbilt All-American in four years, posting seven interceptions, the third-highest season total ever by a Commodore.
McGriff’s season in Nashville was preceded by four at Miami (Fla.), where he mentored some of the ACC’s top defensive backs. In 2010, the Hurricanes ranked second in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 164.3 yards per game. The Miami defense ranked 16th nationally and 21st in scoring defense. In 2009, he tutored All-America defensive back Brandon Harris, seven-year NFL veteran safety Kenny Phillips (2007 All-American and first-round NFL draft pick) and Green Bay defensive back Sam Shields, as the Hurricanes ranked 29th in total defense.
Before joining the Miami staff, McGriff served four years at Baylor as recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach. With McGriff’s assistance, the Baylor defense notched 16 interceptions and ranked 13th in pass efficiency in 2005. As a recruiter, McGriff was responsible for signing offensive lineman Jason Smith, who left Baylor as an All-America tackle and the No. 2 pick of the 2009 draft.
McGriff earned his first SEC coaching experience at Kentucky, where he coached running backs in 2001 and cornerbacks in 2002. One of McGriff’s pupils, Artose Pinner, led the SEC in rushing and played six years in the NFL.
McGriff spent the 2000 campaign as the secondary coach at Eastern Kentucky, where he mentored Yeremiah Bell, a first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference pick who went on to be drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round in 2003.
From 1995-99, McGriff served as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Kentucky State. The Thorobreds had the No. 1 defense in the nation in 1995 and the No. 1 pass yardage defense in 1997. He was named the AFCA’s NCAA Division II National Assistant Coach of the Year in 1998.
He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Savannah State, from 1990-94. Starting as a graduate assistant, McGriff tutored running backs before coaching the secondary in 1991-92 and then serving as defensive coordinator in 1993-94. He was the team’s interim head coach for three months in spring 1993.
A native of Tifton, Georgia, McGriff played cornerback, running back and wide receiver for the Tift County High School state championship team. He played at South Carolina State for one year before transferring to Savannah State, where he started at outside linebacker for three seasons and was named the conference’s 1989 Male Academic Athlete of the Year.
He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, graduating cum laude, from Savannah State in 1990 and earned a master’s in public administration from Georgia Southern in 1993. McGriff was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1990 and was a member of the Army Reserves until 2001. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
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