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Football: Charlie Harbison UL’s new co-defensive coordinator

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 16, 2015


New Ragin’ Cajuns defensive coordinator Melvin Smith calls him his “brother from a different mother” — close and longtime friend, in other words — and “one of the best football coaches in the country.”

He is Charlie Harbison, and UL on Monday formally announced — as has long been expected — his hiring as outside linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator.

Like Smith, Harbison was let go as a defensive assistant by Auburn — he was co-defensive coordinator and coached safeties there — when Ellis Johnson was fired and Will Muschamp was hired after the end of last season.

Also like Smith, Harbison agreed to work for the Cajuns at a reduced rate — in his case, $80,000 this year — while Auburn pays the remainder of what it owes him.

The longtime SEC and ACC assistant is now officially part of a brand-new UL defensive staff hired by head coach Mark Hudspeth that also includes ex-Auburn defensive line aid Levorn Harbin (d-line) and former Southeastern Louisiana head coach and Northwestern State defensive coordinator Mike Lucas (outsider linebackers).

“Number one, I’m blessed to be here,” Harbison, also a highly regarded recruiter, said in a statement. “I love what Coach Hudspeth is doing here at Louisiana. He has built something special and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

“Coach Smith and I are like brothers,” he added. ‘We’re fortunate to have each other as friends and I want to do everything to help him and Coach Hudspeth to be the best that we can be. I want to come in, do my work and make sure the kids are coached well under my watch.”

Before going to Auburn in 2013, Harbison was co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Clemson from 2009-2012 and defensive backs coach for the same school from 1995-97, defensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 2007-2008 (when Smith was his cornerbacks coach), receivers coach at Alabama from 2003-06 and 1998-2000 and secondary coach at LSU from 2001-02.

The North Carolina native also coached defensive backs at UTEP in 1994, coached twice at his alma mater Gardner-Webb (1984-85 and 1992-93) and coached in both the Arena Football League and the World League of American Football.

“We’re extremely excited to have someone of Coach Harbison’s experience joining our staff,” Hudspeth said in a statement. “He and Melvin Smith have worked together for quite a while at two different universities and they share a lot of the same philosophies.

“This is going to be a great fit and they’ll do a phenomenal job of working with the players, both on and off the field,” he added. “You can tell that our players know why these coaches have been so successful at every stop.”

Harbison, Smith and Harbin all were on Auburn’s staff when the Tigers played in the 2013 season’s national championship game, which it lost 34-31 to Florida State.

When Harbison was at Clemson, the Tigers had back-to-back 10-win seasons, made an Orange Bowl appearance and won the ACC in 2011.

When he was at LSU, the then Nick Saban-coached Tigers won the SEC in 2001 and when 18-8 over two seasons, and when he was at Alabama the Crimson Tide won the SEC in 1999.

Harbison also played professionally for the USFL’s Boston Breakers in 1983 and New Orleans Breakers in 1984.

“You want to have the best people available, period, doing it,” Smith said, “and I couldn’t think of anybody better for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns right now than Charlie Harbison. He’s a players’ coach. He’s an outstanding human being and a great tactician.”

LAGNIAPPE: Start time for UL’s March 28 spring game at Cajun Field has been set for 5 p.m., three hours after the UL baseball team is scheduled to begin Game 2 of its Sun Belt home series against Arkansas State.


Born: Oct. 27, 1958, in Shelby, North Carolina

College: Played at Gardner-Webb (1979-82)

Pro teams played for: Boston Breakers (USFL, 1983), New Orleans Breakers (USFL, 1984)


1984-85, 92-93: Gardner-Webb (assistant)

1994: UTEP (defensive backs)

1995-97: Clemson (DBs)

1998-2000: Alabama (DBs)

2001-02: LSU (DBs)

2003-06: Alabama (receivers)

2007-08: Mississippi State (safeties, defensive coordinator)

2009-12: Clemson (co-defensive coordinator/DBs)

2013-14: Auburn (safeties)

2015: UL (co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers)

*Also coached at two high schools, in the Arena Football League and in the World League of American Football