OK, not that I'd really spent that much time wondering about the identity of Auburn's future secondary coach or coaches--there was, like, the two minutes after the Roof hiring, and then another four two days before Signing Day--but when I did, I didn't generally think "Well, it'll probably be an ace recruiter from Butch Davis's staff at North Carolina making a lateral-at-best move away from his alma mater."
But hey, turns out Gene Chizik's had one last hiring trick up his sleeve after all:
North Carolina assistant Tommy Thigpen and Auburn director of NFL operations Phillip Lolley will take over as coaches in the secondary, the university confirmed in a release Sunday evening ...I mean, wow. Really? You're kickin' it with Davis at your alma mater, the smart bet to become the next decade's answer to 1990s Florida St., but when Chizik offers you the chance to coach safeties at Auburn, you say "Hey, sure, that sounds great"? You, Tommy Thigpen, a la Taylor or Rocker once again have me far, far more fired up over the hiring of a position coach than I ever expected to be.
Chizik scored another one of the nation’s top, young recruiters in Thigpen.
A 38-year-old Virginia native, Thigpen was named a Rivals.com Top 25 recruiter in 2007 and 2009. The Tar Heels just put the wraps on the eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals, and Thigpen had a hand in landing six four-star recruits.
“Tommy has had a tremendous amount of success at every stop he’s made as an assistant coach,” Chizik said. “I’ve been well aware of him since his days as a standout player at North Carolina and have followed his professional career very closely. I’m extremely pleased to be adding someone with his professionalism and coaching expertise to this staff.”
Thigpen spent the past four years as the linebackers coach at North Carolina, his alma mater. He began his coaching career there in 1998 as a graduate assistant. The three-time all-ACC linebacker moved on to coach linebackers at Tennessee State in 2000, cornerbacks and special teams at Bowling Green from 2001-02, cornerbacks at Illinois in 2003 and was moved to linebackers with the Illini for the 2004 season.
Because clearly, whatever else you'd like to say about him, when Gene Chizik talks people do, in fact, listen. It's obviously still very much yet to be seen how much that will matter on the football field, but back in those dark days when the staff was allegedly going to be a Whitman's Sampler of Pat Dye retreads, a staff chockful o' quality assistants ganked from the staffs of other top-25 and rising programs was not what I imagined. For a head coach who was alleged to do ... well, nothing well, it's hard to see how he could have done this staff hiring thing any better. Serious kudos to the Chiznick once again.
This is the part of the post where the wags point out that I'm ignoring the other secondary hire, the same Mr. Phillip Lolley who got demoted from his secondary-coaching duties back in 2003 and has been twiddling his thumbs as Auburn's "Director of NFL Relations" ever since. Whatever, says he Auburn press release:
Lolley coached Auburn's secondary in 2002-03, helping the Tigers finish 13th in nation in scoring defense in 2002 and ninth in 2003. Lolley coached Thorpe Award winner Carlos Rogers and Junior Rosegreen, who both went on to earn All-America honors in 2004. During his two years, he coached numerous future NFL players including Rogers, Rosegreen, Will Herring, Kevin Hobbs, Roderick Hood, Travaris Robinson, and Horace Willis.OK, so you don't really want Will Herring's time in the secondary attached to your resume, but still ... Chizik knows what he's getting and it's not like his first rodeo was a disaster. All those years coaching Alabama high schools might help get outsiders like Taylor, Luper, etc. in those in-state doors, too.
So, your final staff listing:
Defensive coordinator/linebackers: Ted Roof
Defensive line: Tracy Rocker
Cornerbacks: Phillip Lolley
Safeties: Tommy Thigpen
Offensive coordinator: Gus Malzahn
WR and assistant head coach: Trooper Taylor
Offensive line: Jeff Grimes
Running backs and recruiting coordinator: Curtis Luper
Tight ends and special teams coordinator: Jay Boulware
Yessir, I believe I can live with that.