SEC: Steve Ensminger

LSU pushes back spring practice to Monday

February, 26, 2010
LSU was originally planning to open spring practice on Friday, but has pushed it back until Monday.

Les Miles wanted to allow new tight ends coach Steve Ensminger time to get settled in before the Tigers started practice. Miles announced on Thursday that Ensminger would replace Don Yanowsky.

"We've had a great start to our offseason conditioning," Miles said. "The players have done a great job of doing what the coaches have asked of them. I like the attitude and the work ethic that this team has displayed so far. I'm looking forward to getting on the practice field with them."

Ensminger, a former starting quarterback for LSU, is the final piece of the coaching puzzle for the Tigers. He coached high school ball last season, but was on Auburn's staff from 2003-08. He previously served as the offensive coordinator at both Clemson and Texas A&M and was the passing game coordinator at Georgia.

SEC West coaching carousel

February, 26, 2010
Here’s a Western Division breakdown of who’s out and who’s in for the 2010 season. Auburn was the only team in the league without any turnover:


Who’s out: Associate head coach/linebackers coach James Willis

Who’s in: Alabama coach Nick Saban promoted Jeremy Pruitt from director of player development to fill the vacancy left by Willis, who went to Texas Tech to be Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt had been Alabama’s director of player development for the last three seasons and coached at Hoover High School just outside Birmingham prior to that.


Who’s out: Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Paul Petrino, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Mike Summers and defensive ends coach Kirk Botkin.

Who’s in: Garrick McGee was promoted to offensive coordinator after Paul Petrino left to take the Illinois offensive coordinator’s job. Kris Cinkovich will coach receivers after spending the last six seasons coaching receivers at UNLV. Steve Caldwell, who was out of coaching last season, will coach ends. Caldwell was on Phillip Fulmer’s staff at Tennessee for 14 seasons. Chris Klenakis will coach offensive line after coming over from Nevada.


Who’s out: Assistant head coach/running backs coach Larry Porter, receivers coach D.J. McCarthy and tight ends/recruiting coordinator Don Yanowsky.

Who’s in: Frank Wilson, who was at Tennessee last season, will coach the running backs and serve as recruiting coordinator. Billy Gonzales will coach receivers and serve as the passing game coordinator. Gonzales spent the last five seasons at Florida. Steve Ensminger, a former quarterback at LSU, will coach tight ends. He spent last season coaching high school football, but was at Auburn the six seasons prior to that and has also coached at Georgia, Clemson and Texas A&M.


Who’s out: Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and defensive line coach David Turner.

Who’s in: Manny Diaz will be the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and also coach linebackers. He was the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State the previous four seasons. Chris Wilson will serve as co-defensive coordinator and coach the defensive line. He spent the last five seasons coaching the defensive line at Oklahoma.


Who’s out: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kent Austin.

Who’s in: Dave Rader will coach quarterbacks and take over as co-offensive coordinator for Austin, who left to take the head-coaching job at Cornell. Rader was out of coaching the last three seasons, but was the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Mike Shula from 2003 to 2006. He was also the head coach at Tulsa from 1988 to 1999. Rader will share the coordinator duties with Mike Markuson, who was promoted by Houston Nutt and will also continue to coach the offensive line.

What to watch in the SEC, Week 7

October, 10, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

It's a battle of the last two BCS national champions on Saturday night in the Swamp. And if you're into trends, the Gators should be in good shape. The home team is 7-0-1 when the last two national champions meet. The last time it happened was 18 years ago when Notre Dame (the 1988 champ) beat Miami (the 1989 champ) 29-20 in South Bend. LSU's 28-24 win over Florida last season was one of the more exciting, hard-hitting games in the league. But, then, what LSU game a year ago wasn't heart-pounding? The winner of this game can make a pretty convincing statement in its divisional race that it's the team to beat. And especially if Florida wins, there's a decent chance the two teams could meet in a rematch in the SEC championship game. Here's a look at what to watch for in Week 7 in the SEC:

1. The Mad Hatter: Yes, LSU coach Les Miles is a bit unorthodox in how he goes about answering the simplest of questions in such a way that leaves you more confused than you were before you asked the question. And, yes, the way he wears his hat squarely on top of his head is a bit comical. But Miles could wear a lampshade on his head if he keeps winning the way he has. He's 8-3 against top 10 teams at LSU and has won six in a row. He's 4-2 on the road against top-10 competition. In his last 16 games against SEC opponents, the only two games he lost were in triple-overtime. It's high time the Mad Hatter gets his due. The guy can coach.

2. Auburn's offense: What's it going to look like now that Tony Franklin is gone? Steve Ensminger will call the plays, and Tommy Tuberville insists that the Tigers aren't going away from the no-huddle, spread offense that Franklin implemented. That may be, but surely Auburn is going to make more of an effort to run the ball Saturday against an Arkansas defense that hasn't stopped anybody on the ground this season.

3. Tuberville crossing over: Tommy Tuberville has a distinguished background as a top defensive coordinator and linebackers coach when he was at Miami and then Texas A&M for a year before getting the Ole Miss top job. But calling offensive plays? It will be interesting to see how involved he really is the rest of the way in coordinating Auburn's offense and making the play calls on game day. Tuberville says it will be a team effort and that he will be a big part of that team.

4. Spikes vs. Scott: Florida's Brandon Spikes is one of the best middle linebackers in the country. He's fast, physical and always around the ball. He dares you to run at him. But that's what LSU likes to do with bruising 233-pound tailback Charles Scott, who's rushed for 100 or more yards in each of his four games this season. There's not a whole lot fancy about Scott other than his penchant for running over people. That first collision between Spikes and Scott ought to be one to remember.

5. The beast within: Brandon Spikes has already warned everybody that talking trash to Tim Tebow before a big game is akin to making the beast that much angrier. Look for Tebow to be a beast in this game and not hold back. It's obvious he hasn't looked to run quite as much this season. That all changes Saturday night in the Swamp. Not only will he look to run, but he'll look to run over somebody early to set the tone. The Tim Tebow that won the 2007 Heisman Trophy isn't a pocket passer. He's a modern-day, 240-pound single-wing tailback.

6. Solving Spurrier: Rich Brooks has yet to beat South Carolina since taking the Kentucky job in 2003. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier has never lost to Kentucky. He's 15-0 all-time against the Wildcats, who have lost eight straight to the Gamecocks. In short, something has to give if the Wildcats are going to break through and have a big season. They get the Gamecocks at home in a game that should provide the most definitive answer yet as to whether Kentucky is a contender or a pretender.

7. Adams on call: It sounds like Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson's right throwing shoulder is healthy enough for him to start Saturday against Mississippi State. Of course, Nickson has failed to finish the last two games after taking hits on that shoulder. The comforting thing for the Commodores is that they don't miss a beat when backup quarterback Mackenzi Adams is in the game. In fact, they really didn't start moving the ball consistently against Auburn until he entered the game in the second quarter.

8. Southerland's impact: Rumor has it that Georgia fullback Brannan Southerland, who missed the first five games after recovering from foot surgery, will arrive at Sanford Stadium on Saturday in a limousine provided by sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno. Nobody has missed Southerland's crushing lead blocks more than Moreno, who was a nonfactor in the Alabama loss two weeks ago. Southerland's leadership and all-around toughness will also be key for the Bulldogs as they enter the teeth of their schedule beginning this weekend against Tennessee.

9. Getting to Smelley: The problem South Carolina had earlier this season was protecting the quarterback. But Chris Smelley has had more time to throw these last few games. He faces a Kentucky front four that ranks up there with the best in the league. The Wildcats sacked Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson three times last week, and the Crimson Tide offensive line was whistled twice for holding on pass plays. Rich Brooks says it's easily the best pass rush he's had at Kentucky, and the numbers back him up. The Wildcats are second nationally in pass efficiency defense.

10. Stephens' SEC debut: Not only does Tennessee have to go on the road Saturday against a Georgia team eager to get revenge for last season's shellacking in Knoxville, but the Vols do so with a quarterback (Nick Stephens) who's never taken a snap in an SEC game. Stephens was serviceable last week in the narrow win over Northern Illinois, but you know the Vols have to be kicking themselves now for not giving him a chance against Auburn or Florida earlier this season and for not giving him a chance to at least compete with Jonathan Crompton for the starting job back in the spring and preseason.

Ensminger gets another shot at Auburn

October, 9, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

The offensive play-calling duties at Auburn have come back full circle to Steve Ensminger.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed Thursday that Ensminger would call the offensive plays and coach quarterbacks for the remainder of the season with this little caveat: Tuberville will also be heavily involved.

Ensminger is only a stand-in and isn't a candidate to replace Tony Franklin after the season, Tuberville said. Franklin was fired Wednesday as the Tigers' offensive coordinator.

Ensminger, who was coaching tight ends and inside receivers for the Tigers, will be in the coaches' box calling the plays on Saturdays. But Tuberville, whose background is on defense, said he would converse with Ensminger over the headset about which plays are called.

Wouldn't you like to be on that headset?

This is not Ensminger's first rodeo when it comes to calling plays for Tuberville. He was Auburn's quarterbacks coach in 2003 and also called the plays that season. He and Hugh Nall essentially shared the offensive coordinator duties, but they were demoted after the Tigers struggled on offense that season. They finished eighth in the SEC in scoring offense and 10th in passing offense.

Remember, too, that was the season that Tuberville was nearly pushed out when school officials and boosters took a secret flight two days before the Alabama game to meet with Bobby Petrino about replacing Tuberville.

Tuberville survived and brought in Al Borges to be his offensive coordinator that next season. The Tigers went 13-0 and shot up to first in the SEC in scoring offense, second in total offense and third in passing offense.

Borges made it four seasons before Tuberville fired him to bring in Franklin and his no-huddle, spread attack last December. Franklin only lasted six games, and now, Ensminger gets his second shot at Auburn as the chief playcaller.

Ensminger, who played quarterback at LSU, has been a member of Tuberville's staff since 2003. He's also been the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Clemson and Louisiana Tech and was the passing game coordinator at Georgia. He was coaching high school football in Louisiana when Tuberville hired him in 2003.

The really intriguing part of this whole situation is that it sounds as if Auburn will continue to run Franklin's no-huddle, spread offense. Tuberville will decide between Chris Todd and Kodi Burns as his starting quarterback in the next 24 hours, but reiterated Thursday that he wasn't abandoning the spread.

"We're not changing anything," Tuberville said. "The difference in what we were doing last year to what we ran the last two weeks is tempo. We want to keep all that. We think all of that is good. Obviously, what I want to do over the next few weeks after [the Arkansas game] is go back and simplify it a little bit, try and do as much as your players can handle."

How much of that involves committing more to the running game? We'll just have to wait and see.