FootballScoop is proud to announce that Kevin Steele is the 2017 FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.
Any Gus Malzahn team will always be judged by its offense first, but it was Steele's defense that served as the backbone of Auburn's 10-win, SEC West-championship season.
The Tigers played the toughest schedule in the country in 2017, with four combined games against College Football Playoff participants Clemson, Georgia and Alabama. And Steele's defense held each club to its worst offensive outing of the season. Clemson's 14 points and 4.19 yards per play in a Sept. 9 game against Auburn were its fewest of the season, Georgia was held to a season-worst 3.77 yards per play and 17 points in a 23-point loss at Auburn on Nov. 11, and Alabama was held to a season-low 14 points in a 26-14 Auburn win on Nov. 25.
Over the course of the season, Auburn's defense ranked 14th nationally in total defense, ninth in yards per play and 10th in scoring defense. The Tigers were one of just six teams to rank in the top 10 of both the yards per play and scoring defense rankings.
Against the run, Auburn surrendered only 3.55 yards per carry and was one of 16 teams to allow no more than 10 rushing touchdowns over the season. Those numbers included Auburn's 36 sacks, 13th nationally, with four coming against both Clemson and Georgia. Steele's unit limited Georgia's 11th ranked rushing attack to a season-low 46 yards in that Nov. 11 win; the Bulldogs' next-worst rushing game accounted for 185 yards. Clemson's 96 rushing yards against Auburn were its second-fewest of the season.
Through the air, Auburn placed among the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency defense, permitting 55 percent completions for 5.9 yards per attempt (seventh best in FBS) with 14 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Defensive end Jeff Holland and defensive back Carlton Davis were named First Team All-SEC performers by the league's coaches, while linebacker Tre' Williams made the Second Team. Defensive linemen Nick Coe and Big Kat Bryant were also named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
Steele is in his second season as Auburn's defensive coordinator. He also has coordinator experience at LSU, Clemson and Alabama. A Tennessee graduate, Steele began coaching as a student in 1980 and has been in college football ever since, save for a 4-year stint as the Carolina Panthers' linebackers coach. He was Baylor's head coach from 1999-02.
Steele was also a finalist for the Broyles Award.
"We credit him a lot. We love coach Steele. He's an unbelievable guy," safety Tray Matthews said this season. "It's like family. It's not even like we're talking to a coach when we're in meetings. He always says he wants everything like the NFL, so we have like a players meeting when we're talking to him."
The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Don Brown [Michigan], Manny Diaz [Miami], Alex Grinch [Washington State], Nick Holt and Anthony Poindexter [Purdue], Pete Kwiatkowski [Washington], Jim Leonhard [Wisconsin] and Steele) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.
Steele will receive his award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.
Previous winners of the Defensive Coordinator of the Year award are Nick Holt (USC, 2008), Kirby Smart (Alabama, 2009), Vic Fangio (Stanford, 2010), John Chavis (LSU, 2011), Bob Diaco (Notre Dame, 2012), Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State, 2013), Venables (Clemson, 2014), Don Brown (Boston College, 2015) and Jim Leavitt (Colorado, 2016).
9th Nationally - Yards Per Play
14th Nationally - Plays of 10+ Yards
10th Nationally - Scoring Defense
19th Nationally - 3rd Down Conversions
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