AUBURN, Alabama—With the firing of Auburn coach Bryan Harsin on Monday along with offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and tight ends coach Brad Bedell, the Tigers will have plenty of changes on that side of the ball this weekend when they take on Mississippi State in Starkville.
When you throw in the move of running backs coach Cadillac Williams to the interim head coaching position, Auburn will need to replace three position coaches on offense and get a plan ready for the Bulldogs this week.
Moving up to the co-coordinator role for the Auburn offense will be veteran coach Will Friend. Auburn’s offensive line coach the past two seasons, he’s the only assistant on the staff with previous offensive coordinator experience. He will be joined as co-offensive coordinator by Ike Hilliard. Hillard came to Auburn this season after working the previous 11 seasons in the National Football League. It’s still to be decided who will call plays and how that will work on Saturday.
At Tennessee before making the move to Auburn in 2021, Friend was the offensive coordinator at Colorado State before that. In 2017, he led an offense that ranked 11th in the nation in total yardage at 492.5 per game. Colorado State’s 33.4 points per game in 2017 led the conference and ranked 31st in the nation.
Prior to Colorado State, Friend served as the offensive line coach at Georgia in 2011 before adding the title of running game coordinator in 2013. During his final season in Athens in 2014, Friend helped guide a Bulldogs’ offense that averaged 41.3 points per game, which ranked eighth nationally, and racked up 457.8 yards of total offense per game.
With Friend moving to the role as coordinator, Auburn will move a familiar name on the field, former Auburn and NFL offensive lineman Kendall Simmons. A first-round pick and two-time Super Bowl winner, Simmons played 10 seasons in the league before injuries forced him to retire. He’s spent the last four seasons at Auburn working as an offensive analyst. He will coach the offensive line with Friend moving to a coordinator role.
In Bedell’s absence Joe Bernardi will also move on the field. Working with Friend at the position since arriving at Auburn, Bernardi coached tight ends at Fresno State prior to coming to Auburn. Bernardi has also spent time at Oregon as a graduate assistant and Tennessee as a quality control assistant, helping with both the offensive line and tight ends during his young career.
Also making a move will be offensive analyst Mike Hartline. Coming to Auburn following a stint as the offensive coordinator at Ohio Dominican University, the former Kentucky quarterback has spent time working at both Cincinnati and Ohio State. He’s the younger brother of former NFL wide receiver and current Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline.
With those changes also come changes off the field on the Auburn staff. Formerly the director of player personnel, Steven Ruzic will now head up both the personnel and recruiting departments for the Tigers with Mikel Riggs taking on the Chief of Staff role for the Tigers.
In addition to Ruzic and Riggs, Auburn still has a deep and strong support staff to continue moving forward with Brendt Bedsole, Trovon Reed, Bianca Webb, Logan Meyer, Addison Hill, Reilly Wooten, Katie Bianco, Xaria Wiggins, Kendal Lambert, Cole Brown, Jared Tucker, Aaron Pittard, Sam Beckenstein and Tanner Chastain all continuing their roles as off-field personnel for the Tigers.
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