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
Kiffin Helped Rebels Reel In Historic Recruiting Class
McGriff Oversaw DBs, Recruiting For Vanderbilt In 2011
Wesley McGriff, a highly respected leader, defensive coach and dynamic recruiter, returned to Ole Miss for his second stint on Hugh Freeze's staff when he was tabbed defensive coordinator on December 16, 2016.
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 have given up far less explosive plays of 10+ yards (190 in 2015, 144 in 2016) and have been locked down when it comes to allowing touchdowns in the red zone (51.0 percent to 34.2 percent). Auburn ranks fourth nationally in total red zone defense (71.1 percent) and fifth in scoring defense 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.
As a member of Hugh Freeze’s first Ole Miss staff, McGriff helped Ole Miss 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.
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.
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