Ole Miss announced its hiring of Wesley McGriff as the defensive coordinator to replace Dave Wommack, who retired at the end of the 2016 season.
McGriff served as the secondary coach for Auburn last season, a defense at the top the SEC in just about every statistical category.
Coach Hugh Freeze told the media at the teleconference Friday morning that he believes hiring McGriff and new offensive coordinator Phil Longo will help the team “move from good to great.”
Freeze said he was extremely comfortable with McGriff, since he was on Freeze’s staff as a defensive back coach in 2012.
“One name just kept coming back to me, and the comfort level I have with Wesley McGriff is very important to me,” Freeze said. “The energy he will bring to reviving our defense is going to be vital.”
McGriff’s hunger and desire made him the top candidate for the defensive coordinator job. An Ole Miss defense that struggled in 2016 needed new energy. Freeze said he believes McGriff will bring that along with his SEC and NFL background.
He also met the three criteria that Freeze was looking for in his new defensive coordinator: Stopping the run, red zone defense, and minimizing explosive plays.
“The defenses have been outstanding at every place he’s been, and his most recent experience at Auburn has him well prepared for his opportunity here,” Freeze said.
McGriff plans on running a simple defensive plan. He wants players to play and not think too much, which will likely help a Rebel defense that struggled with youth and inexperience a year ago.
“We’ll be very simple. We’ll be very fast and physical,” McGriff said. “A lot of our success at Auburn was based on simple schemes.”
Freeze said he likes the simplicity of McGriff’s scheme. McGriff’s expertise starts with the secondary, which Freeze hopes will help that unit mature. Together, the two will try to put together the final pieces of the defense by hiring a linebackers coach and a defensive line coach.
“We really need a run stopping coordinator,” Freeze said. McGriff’s experience is on the back end. He knows what he wants so we’ve got to marry those two.”
McGriff will run a four-three scheme, but it will be multiple in the different looks they give with a four-man front being their foundation.
“We’re going to run the defense that stops every offense that’s playing football in America,” McGriff said added on his defensive plan. “Here’s the biggest thing, I have a lot of ideas from my past experiences in what we will do on defense. But I think it is all about the guys in the room. You’ve got to formulate a plan based on talent that is in the room.”
McGriff served a brief stint in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, before moving to Auburn to coach the secondary as well as become co-defensive coordinator.
“It was a phenomenal experience in the Natonal Football League at the highest level and be able to game plan against some world class athletes,” McGriff said of his time in the NFL. “Guys like Julio Jones, guys like Marshawn Lynch, guys like Matt Ryan, it was phenomenal. I really learned how you break an offense down to prepare in terms of game planning.”
McGriff will officially come to Oxford and join the staff on January 3rd, following Auburn’s Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma.