AUBURN — Kevin Steele isn’t going anywhere.
The veteran defensive coordinator has agreed to a new three-year contract that runs through the 2022 season, the program announced Wednesday afternoon.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to USA Today’s salary database, Steele was the fourth-highest-paid assistant coach in college football last season at $1.95 million.
“Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work.”
Steele has been by far the most important hire of Malzahn’s now-eight-year tenure at Auburn. The 61-year-old South Carolina native officially joined the Tigers on Dec. 30, 2015 — the same day the team was set to play in the Birmingham Bowl. He replaced Will Muschamp, who took the head job at South Carolina after one year back on the Plains.
At that time, the program hadn’t fielded a top-40 scoring defense since 2008. That 2015 team allowed 26 points per game. Since Steele’s arrival, though, Auburn’s defense has consistently been among the best in the FBS.
The Tigers have allowed fewer than 20 points per game during each of the past four seasons under Steele, which is the first such streak the program has had since it did so seven straight years from 2002-08. More than 60 percent of Auburn’s opponents (32 of 53) have scored 21 or fewer points.
That defense will have to replace standout defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson next season, as well as four starters in the secondary — cornerbacks Javaris Davis and Noah Igbinoghene, and safeties Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas.
But that’s nothing new. The Tigers had to replace Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Rudy Ford and Josh Holsey after 2016; Jeff Holland, Tre’ Williams, Carlton Davis, Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts after the 2017 season; and Dontavius Russell, Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson after the 2018 season. And the defense just kept rolling.
It should continue to with Steele — the program’s longest-tenured defensive coordinator since Wayne Hall (1986-95) — locked in for the foreseeable future.