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The 15 most important assistant coaching hires of 2022 -- No. 10: Eric Kiesau, Auburn

Yes, we know Kiesau isn't new to the Auburn staff. But go with us here.

Who: Eric Kiesau, Auburn

Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach

Previous stop: Auburn wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator (2021)

Why he's important: Any head coach taking a job in the SEC without prior experience in the region faces a difficult but important choice. He can double down on what got him the job, or he can pivot. When Urban Meyer took the Florida job with zero prior SEC experience, he brought Dan Mullen, who himself had zero prior SEC experience, with him. When Nick Saban took the LSU job with zero prior SEC experience, he hired Jimbo Fisher, a first-time traveler on the Saban Express but plenty experienced in the Deep South at Samford and Auburn. Both moves worked. Of course, countless coaches have made similar decisions and failed, too.

Bryan Harsin's first choice failed. He chose to pivot the approach that got him the job by hiring Mike Bobo to run his offense. They'd coached opposite each other when Harsin was at Boise State and Bobo at Colorado State -- Harsin went 5-0 in those games, a red flag in retrospect -- but Bobo had spent the entirety of his life deep within SEC country otherwise. 

Harsin actually tried to split the difference between the Saban Model and the Meyer Model by filling his staff by bringing his three most important Boise State assistants -- both coordinators and his offensive line coach -- with him to Auburn. 

We know how that went. 

Given the opportunity for a do-over on his offensive coordinator hire, Harsin went with... another outside hire. Austin Davis, a 32-year-old with three years of coaching experience, all of them with the Seattle Seahawks, got the job. He lasted six weeks.

Only given a third opportunity to fill the job did Harsin turn to Kiesau, his offensive coordinator at Boise State. (Harsin did the same on defense, promoting Jeff Schmedding to defensive coordinator, but without the 6-week detour.) It's not a criticism of Kiesau, but merely the facts of the situation: Harsin deemed Kiesau the right choice to run his offense in the Mountain West, but passed him over twice before handing him the keys to the offense in the SEC.

Harsin promoted Kiesau on Feb. 18, one week after he was cleared by the unfounded investigation into his management of the program and off-field behavior.

Following a 6-7 debut at a school with a notoriously short fuse for even its most successful coaches, Harsin is doubling down on the approach and the assistants that got him the job. It's not a bad choice -- as stated above, it worked for Urban and plenty of other first-timers. But it is a choice that will leave him out of new tactics if this one doesn't work out. A head coach only gets so many pivots.

Of course, Harsin and Kiesau don't view it that way. Kiesau is bought into the mission, no matter what role it puts him in.

"That's the beauty of me coming from Boise and having worked with Coach Harsin in the past: I know his direction and his core beliefs, and what we want to do offensively," Kiesau said this spring. "The direction we want to go, it's not necessarily going to be two different philosophies. It's more of me just kind of putting it all together, moving forward, things we did at Boise. ... That's why it was an easy transition going from receivers to coordinator with Coach Harsin — because we do have that background."

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS: No. 15 Tim DeRutyer (Texas Tech); No. 14 Rob Sale (Florida); No. 13 Joe Gillespie (TCU); No. 12: Brennan Marion (Texas); No. 11: Derek Mason (Oklahoma State).

"I enjoy working with him because he’s very low ego, high output," Harsin said of Kiesau. "That’s what he is."

The game of thrones in the coordinator chair and the head coach's office are now things of the past. Auburn coaches and players say those outside the building found the palace intrigue much more interesting than those on the inside. They're not what matters here, at least they're not what matters the most here. Harsin started a podcast for a reason, to share his personality and his vision with a fan base that embraced him skeptically at best, and there's also a reason why Kiesau was his first guest.  

But, ultimately, this is a football question. Will the Tigers be good enough on offense in 2022 and beyond to even have a "beyond" beyond 2022? 

The Tigers start over at quarterback with Bo Nix now at Oregon. Three players who began their career elsewhere will now compete for the job -- TJ Finley (Oregon), Zach Calzada (Texas A&M) and Robby Ashford (Oregon). Finley has the advantage, due to his incumbent status and Calzada's offseason shoulder injury. The wide receiver room is also a question mark, but Auburn returns plenty of experience up front -- including seventh-year senior Brandon Council -- and running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter. 

Auburn enters 2022 picked by the media to finish last in the SEC West. That's the result of a 6-7 season in which the Tigers finished sixth in the West in yards per play and points per game. The West should be even stronger offensively top-to-bottom in 2022, led by reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young. The SEC is a dynamic offensive league now, and Auburn needs more dynamite in its arsenal.

And that's the most important thing here. After a winter of upheaval and intrigue, ultimately it doesn't matter who's in the headsets. They just have to get the guys in the helmets to play better.