June 25, 2024

Coach Bryan HArsin and Allen Greene Auburn new college football coach Bryan Harsin arrives on campus on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

News of Auburn’s potential hiring of former Colorado defensive coordinator Charles Kelly first emerged on December 30, just ahead of Auburn’s Music City Bowl clash against Maryland.

However, it wasn’t until January 12 that the official confirmation of Kelly’s appointment came, as Hugh Freeze and the Auburn football program publicly revealed the addition of Kelly. A native of Ozark, Ala., Kelly had played for the Tigers from 1986-89.

In a statement released on Friday, Freeze expressed his enthusiasm about having Kelly on the staff, describing him as an exceptional football mind, recruiter, and someone with a solid understanding of Auburn and the Southeastern Conference landscape. Freeze emphasized their excitement to have Kelly contribute to building a robust foundation for the future success of Auburn football.

Returning to his alma mater, Kelly’s homecoming follows a season spent in Boulder, Colo., where he served as the defensive coordinator for Colorado under Deion Sanders.

Expressing his gratitude for the opportunity, Kelly remarked in a release on Friday, “I am very grateful to return to a university and a football program that have meant so much to me growing up in this state and playing for Coach Dye. It’s an honor to work with Coach Freeze, whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I’m appreciative of him for this opportunity.”

Kelly’s hiring aligns with the departures of two Auburn defensive assistants: secondary coach Wesley McGriff, who joined Texas A&M, and defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, who reunited with Billy Napier at Florida.

Before joining Sanders’ staff in Colorado, Kelly was associated with Alabama, where he served as the Crimson Tide’s associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach from 2019-22. In his four-season stint under Nick Saban, Kelly played a role in Alabama’s impressive 47-6 record, including a national title win in 2020.

Kelly’s time at Alabama followed a season at Tennessee (2018) and preceded a five-season tenure at Florida State, where he initially served as the Seminoles’ special teams coordinator and linebackers coach in 2013. Later, he was promoted to FSU’s defensive coordinator, a position he held from 2014-17.

During his five-year stint in Tallahassee, Florida State’s defense consistently ranked among the top 25, showcasing its strength in his final three seasons.

Kelly’s coaching impact at Florida State extended to the development of 10 NFL Draft picks, a noteworthy achievement that included guiding Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James to become first-round selections. Ramsey was selected as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, while James followed as the No. 17 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Entering the FBS coaching arena in 2006, Kelly commenced his career as the special teams coordinator at Georgia Tech, where he remained for an impressive seven seasons.

Auburn’s recruiting efforts are poised for further success with Kelly’s addition, especially considering his recognition as the national recruiter of the year by 247 Sports last year.

Expressing his eagerness for the new role, Kelly stated, “I look forward to helping Coach Freeze and this staff bring our program back to the caliber of championship football that Auburn deserves. As the Auburn Creed states, ‘I believe in work, hard work.’ I do not take this opportunity lightly and am ready to go to work. War Eagle!”

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