‘I have no problem with Harsin’

AUBURN — NFL Draft prospect Smoke Monday said during an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser that he has “no problem” with second-year Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin and clarified comments he made during an Instagram live video Feb. 4.

“Man, with that, it was just — when we were talking about it, I wasn’t saying he was a horrible coach. He was a great coach,” said Monday, a former starting safety. “He loved the game. He loved the game. And that’s what you needed as a coach. But I was just saying his people skills weren’t where they needed to be yet to be a head coach in the South.

“I know he will definitely learn from it and eventually become the coach that everybody wants to play for. That’s just how I look at it for real.”

Feb. 4 was one of the most chaotic, confounding days in recent memory for Auburn’s program. At the center of it was Harsin, whose future was suddenly uncertain. As former players discussed Harsin’s culture and coaching mentality on Instagram, university president Jay Gogue acknowledged at a board of trustees meeting that Auburn was looking into Harsin’s program and would make “the appropriate decisions at the right time.”

A week later, Harsin was retained as coach, locking him in for his second season this fall.

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Among the Instagram speakers was former Auburn defensive lineman Lee Hunter, now at UCF, who posted, “Coach Harsin has the true mindset for a winner but has a terrible mindset as a person.” Monday, who had entered the NFL Draft, was on the live video with Hunter.

Monday was regarded as a leader and mentor by Auburn teammates. Since those events, he has participated in the NFL scouting combine, where he expressed support for Harsin. Monday also returned to Auburn for pro day, but said he and Harsin did not talk to each other at the team facility.

“I have no problem with Harsin,” Monday said. “I don’t know if he has a problem with me. But at the end of the day, I went to the school because I love the school. I will always be an Auburn Tiger. I will always come back, show my support to the Auburn Tigers family.”

Current Auburn players said during spring practices that Harsin started making extra efforts to improve player relationships. “I know them better,” Harsin said in March. The primary observation from players who criticized Harsin was that he struggled with the culture shift to Auburn from alma mater Boise State, where he was head coach the previous seven years.

“I would definitely hope so (that he’s learning),” Monday said. “Coming from Boise, I know it’s a totally different culture. But as a coach, sometimes you’ve just got to put your pride aside and actually try to understand where your players are coming from. And that’s just what that was, man.”

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Smoke Monday, Auburn NFL draft prospect, on Bryan Harsin comments