LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team found its replacement for former defensive coordinator James Willis inside its own facility, the university confirmed Tuesday.
Melvin Smith, the longtime Southeastern Conference coach whom the Cajuns hired in mid-January to coach defensive backs, will assume the role as defensive coordinator. The Cajuns appear to have the remainder of their staff ironed out as well.
Football coach Mark Hudspeth also confirmed the hiring of Levorn Harbin to coach the defensive line, a position held by Tim Edwards for the past four seasons.
Harbin spent the past two seasons with Smith at Auburn, where he was an analyst. Before that post, Harbin was the defensive line coach at Tuskegee.
The Smith and Harbin moves are expected to be announced Wednesday morning.
Officially, the Cajuns have one more defensive assistant position to fill, though they are expected to hire former Auburn co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison to coach linebackers in the coming weeks.
Like Smith, Harbison was let go after Auburn hired former Florida coach Will Muschamp to be their defensive coordinator and allowed him to select his own staff.
It’s expected that with the move, Harbison will serve as co-defensive coordinator with Smith while coaching outside linebackers. Mike Lucas, whom the Cajuns hired in January, would shift to coach the inside linebackers.
If the coaching moves pan out as expected, it would mean three-quarters of the Cajuns coaching staff were coaching in the national championship game two years ago. Even with the relatively youthful Harbin, it would also give the Cajuns a highly experienced group.
Smith has been coaching at the major college football level for the past 22 years and has been coaching defensive backfields around the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences since 1996. This will be Smith’s first defensive coordinator position since the 1991 season at Delta State.
Lucas spent last season as the Northwestern State defensive coordinator and has more than three decades of experience as either a coordinator or head coach at the college level.
If Harbison is hired as expected, the Cajuns would add a third defensive assistant to their staff with coordinating experience. Harbison was Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator in the 2008 season, and also worked as co-defensive coordinator at both Clemson and Auburn.