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Vanderbilt University photo / Derek Mason, who spent the past seven seasons as Vanderbilt's head coach, was named Thursday as Auburn's new defensive coordinator.

New Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin has never worked in the Southeastern Conference before, but his two new coordinators sure make up for that.

Auburn on Thursday announced that former Georgia quarterback and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would oversee Harsin's inaugural offense for the Tigers and that former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason would be the defensive coordinator. Mason guided the Commodores to a pair of bowl games and to three consecutive victories over Tennessee during his seven seasons in Nashville, but his tenure ended last month with 13 straight SEC losses.

"Auburn University is a special place with special people, and I've witnessed this in my time in the SEC," Mason said. "I admire the school, the facilities, the traditions and the uniqueness of the community. Auburn has everything! Auburn embraces all that I believe in, and I'm very appreciative of Coach Harsin, Director of Athletics Allen Greene and the university administration for this opportunity.

"I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Harsin, and I'm excited to hit the ground running."

Mason earned the head-coaching opportunity at Vanderbilt following three successful seasons as Stanford's defensive coordinator. He was a Broyles Award finalist in 2012, when the Cardinal went 12-2 with wins over UCLA in the Pac-12 title game and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

His final Cardinal unit in 2013 faced seven ranked opponents yet managed to finish third nationally in run defense, 10th in scoring defense and 16th in total defense.

"Derek Mason is one of the best defensive minds in college football, and his track record speaks for itself," Harsin said. "I've always admired his ability to prepare his defenses, and his approach with players on and off the field is outstanding. Having experience as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference is invaluable, and he will bring a lot to our program."

Bobo was briefly an SEC head coach this past season as well, serving on an interim basis at South Carolina following the firing of Will Muschamp. His one year as offensive coordinator for the Gamecocks followed a five-year stint as Colorado State's head coach, where he went 0-5 against Harsin's Boise State Broncos.

Colorado State went to bowl games in each of Bobo's first three seasons before missing out in 2018 and 2019.

"I have a great amount of respect for Coach Harsin, both as a coach and as a person," Bobo said. "We've talked ball on numerous occasions over the years, and I know what he's about and his commitment to excellence. I know that Auburn is a great community with a tremendous passion for and commitment to Auburn football.

"I'm excited to get started and look forward to helping Coach Harsin compete for championships."

Bobo quarterbacked the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record as a senior in 1997, with that season highlighted by a 37-17 stunning of Florida in Jacksonville. That would serve as Georgia's lone win over the Gators during Steve Spurrier's 12-year run as coach from 1990 to 2001.

After working as a Georgia graduate assistant in 1999, Bobo returned to his alma mater as quarterbacks coach under Mark Richt in 2001 and assumed play-calling chores from Richt late in the 2006 season. His Bulldogs offenses set records for yards in a season (6,547 in 2012), yards per game (484.2 in 2013) and points per game (41.3 in 2014).

"I've wanted to work with Mike now for quite some time as he complements the many things we want to do with our offense," Harsin said. "We are going to be very versatile in what we do, and Mike's offensive background speaks for itself. I'm really excited to combine forces with Mike as we create the Auburn offense — a high-powered, attacking and physical unit that will come at you in many ways."

Auburn also announced the hiring Thursday night of Will Friend as offensive line coach. Friend has spent the past three seasons at Tennessee but left late last month for the same role at South Carolina.

 

Davis back to Georgia

Georgia junior defensive tackle Jordan Davis announced Thursday that he would return to Athens next season, all 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds of him.

Davis played in seven of 10 games this past season due to an elbow injury but collected 16 tackles, including a 3-yard sack in last Friday's Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati.

"The NFL is career goal, but it will have to wait another year," Davis posted on social media. "We have some unfinished business. Georgia is my home, and I'm not going anywhere. I'll see ya'll in Charlotte."

Georgia opens next season against Clemson in Charlotte, which is where Davis is from.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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