Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2021 season and beyond.
Who: Mike Bobo, Auburn
Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Previous stop: South Carolina offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2020)
Why he's important: Bryan Harsin's move to Auburn was by far my favorite of the 2020-21 cycle. I loved it from both sides. Harsin could've remained at Boise State for the next 20 years, won a mess of Mountain West titles and retired a rich, adored man. He chose to invite Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher and the rest into his life on a daily basis.
"I want to be able to be part of a program that, when you win, your fans go crazy and go downtown and we toilet paper trees. I mean, how awesome is that? I've never been a part of that. I've been a part of great programs and I've been around great people, but you have all these things. For me, I'm looking forward to that," Harsin said.
"That's why you come to Auburn. That's why you're in the SEC, because it does mean more, and opportunities like that, it's not like that at other places. So my family, myself, our coaching staff, we're all excited to be here."
On the flip side, Auburn could've hired a Billy Napier, a Jamey Chadwell, an [Insert SEC Assistant here] and no one would've raised an eyebrow. They bypassed all those guys to go get the guy in Boise, Idaho. A guy whose SEC Country experience amounted to one year as the head coach at Arkansas State. All coaching hires come with risks of personal blowback for those who make them, but the Auburn hiring committee accepted the risk of looking extra foolish if this doesn't work out, and they did it anyway.
But you can't have zero SEC experience on your SEC coaching staff. That's just plain silly. And so it makes total sense that former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will run Harsin's defense, and the proto-SEC-coordinator Mike Bobo will run Harsin's offense.
Bobo was born in Augusta, Ga., played quarterback at Georgia, and from 1999 to 2014 spent all but one year on Georgia's coaching staff. After five seasons at Colorado State -- the only time in his adult life Bobo has lived west of Jacksonville, Ala. -- he returned to the Motherland to run South Carolina's offense. Originally a member of Will Mushcamp's Gamecocks staff, he agreed to stay on Shane Beamer's staff before flipping to Auburn.
In addition to Harsin and Bobo, Auburn's offensive staff includes longtime Bobo lieutenant Will Friend as offensive line coach, Auburn legend Cadillac Williams, former Troy wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams, and former Boise offensive line coach Brad Bedell as tight ends coach.
Hiring a head coach with no SEC experience, then filling that staff with as much SEC home cookin' as one can get is a bit like inviting your Chicago relatives to visit your new beach house, then serving them deep dish pizza on their first night.
The Tigers' new-look offense will include a little bit of everything, including a rare sight in the Gus Malzahn days: a quarterback taking snaps under center. (The 2020 edition of this list, where Bobo checked in 14th, also included an anecdote of Bobo putting South Carolina's quarterbacks back under center.)
More than anything else, Bobo's job is to get more out of Bo Nix than the previous staff did, or get someone else in who can. As a freshman, the former 5-star recruit hit 57.6 percent of his passes for 6.7 yards per attempt, good for a 125.03 rating that placed ninth in the SEC. As a sophomore, he completed 59.9 percent for 6.8 a throw, equating to a 123.94 rating that placed ninth in the SEC.
Every receiver who caught more than seven passes last season -- all three of them -- is gone, but leading rusher Tank Bigsby returns, as do all five starting offensive linemen.
“Somebody told me one time, ‘You’ve got to let them know you’re at the ballpark, and sometimes there’s not a better way to do that than to get under center and run power.’ That’s what we want to be,” Bobo said. “We want to have a physical run game, and I think you can be a lot more physical sometimes when you’re under center. We’ll have elements of spread. We’ll have elements of under center, elements of two tight ends, elements of fullback.
"We want to be able to do everything."
Bobo's one season in Columbia wasn't enough to save his friend Will Muschamp's job, though the numbers say it was a modest success. The Gamecocks' gained an additional half a yard per play and scored 3.6 more points per game against SEC competition from 2019 to '20.
Just like Auburn didn't have to hire Harsin and Harsin didn't have to leave Boise, Bobo didn't have to take the Auburn job. He'd already agreed to work for Beamer before bolting for the Plains, lured by his enduring respect for his new boss -- Harsin's teams beat Bobo's Rams teams all five seasons in Fort Collins -- and the glow of the Auburn brand.
Having Mike Bobo, in his 22nd season in the SEC, run the offense on a Bryan Harsin-coached team may be like serving deep dish pizza to visiting Chicagoans, but who's to say deep dish by the sea can't be good?