AUBURN, Ala.—Nick Eason has been named defensive line coach at Auburn, head coach Bryan Harsin announced Wednesday. A 10-year veteran of the National Football League from 2003-12 and former Clemson team captain, Eason coached for seven years in the NFL following his playing career.
“Nick is a hire we are extremely excited about as he has coached and played at the highest level,” Harsin said. “After a 10-year NFL career, he moved right into coaching and quickly became an NFL position coach within two years. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day and speaks volumes for his coaching and connection ability. As we got to know Nick better through this process, the football part of it became very apparent as he is a great teacher. But what stands out about Nick, in addition, is his personality, professionalism and an ability to form a relationship with people very quickly.”
The last two seasons, Eason was the defensive line coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. In his first season, Eason helped the Bengals’ defensive line improve significantly as the season progressed. Cincinnati notched 11 more sacks in the second half of 2019 compared to the first eight games. The defense also allowed 84.1 fewer yards per game the second half of the season. Additionally, under Eason’s guidance, DT Geno Atkins earned his eighth Pro Bowl nomination.
“I want to thank Auburn University, Athletics Director Allen Greene, Coach Bryan Harsin and Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason for the opportunity to be a part of one of the most elite programs in the country,” Eason said. “In visiting with Coach Harsin it was clear he knows the culture required and has a plan in place to create a foundation for success to produce championships. He has great passion and cares for his staff, players and the program. This is a great fit for me to coach and recruit great players and be a part of a football program with great success and tradition.”
Eason spent 2014-17 with the Tennessee Titans, serving his first two seasons as assistant defensive line coach before moving up to the defensive line coach role for his final two years.
In his two seasons (2016-17) as Tennessee’s defensive line coach, Eason’s units played a central role on Titans defenses that ranked among the best in the NFL against the run. Tennessee’s defensive line was led by star DT Jurrell Casey, who in his two seasons under Eason totaled 11 sacks, 37 QB hits and earned two Pro Bowl nominations.
In 2017, Tennessee’s defensive line ranked fourth in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of just 88.8 yards per game. In 2016, Eason’s first as defensive line coach, the Titans allowed just 88.3 rushing yards per game, and their No. 2 league rank against the run was the team’s highest in 14 seasons.
In 2015, Eason helped guide Casey to a team-high seven sacks, 28 QB pressures and his first-career Pro Bowl invite. Eason also aided in the development of DE DaQuan Jones and NT Al Woods, who both emerged as quality starters and matched or bettered their career-best numbers in all categories.
In 2014, Eason’s first as a full-time NFL coach, he helped oversee Tennessee’s defensive transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 front. He also helped Casey continue his ascent into one of the NFL’s best interior defensive linemen, as he posted 86 tackles, including 13 for losses, and 27 QB pressures. Eason also guided NT Sammie Hill to career-highs in tackles (47), sacks (3.0), tackles for losses (seven) and QB pressures (8).
Eason’s first coaching assignment after his playing days came in 2013, when he was an intern coach with the Cleveland Browns.
As a player, Eason saw action in 117 games over 10 seasons (2003-12) with the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. He finished his playing career with the Cardinals, where he spent two seasons (2011-12), appeared in 32 games and registered two sacks. Prior to his time with Arizona, Eason spent four seasons (2007-10) with the Steelers and helped the team to two Super Bowl appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl XLIII in the ’08 season. He was a teammate in Pittsburgh with former Auburn standout and current staffer, Kendall Simmons.
Eason was originally a fourth-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 2003 NFL Draft, but he spent his rookie season on Reserve/Injured after suffering an Achilles injury during training camp. The following season, Eason reemerged on the Broncos’ active roster before being waived and signed by the Browns, with whom he played for three seasons (2004-06).
A native of Lyons, Ga., Eason played college football at Clemson, where he starred on the defensive line and became the first football player in school history to graduate with two years of eligibility remaining, earning his degree in sociology in August 2001. In 2008, he earned his master’s degree in human resources. Eason played in 47 games with 35 starts for the Tigers and recorded 15 sacks and 30 tackles for losses. A two-time team captain his junior and senior seasons, he earned first-team All-ACC honors as a senior defensive tackle.