Finishing Touches on Coaches

Auburn has gotten lots of positive pub for the recruiting ability of several of the new staff members. Trooper Taylor and Tommy Thigpen in particular, have come in with reputations as outstanding recruiters. Predictably, some mediots have questioned whether anybody on the staff can actually “coach”, or if they can just recruit. I don’t know where the notion that recruiting and coaching are mutually exclusive came from, but it doesn’t hold water. Hard work gets results, whether it’s pursuing great high school athletes, or teaching technique, or game planning. Based on their backgrounds, I think these guys can do it all.
Gus Malzahn is only 4 years into college coaching, but he is a sought-after speaker at coaching clinics around the country. It always seems silly to call a football coach “a genius”, but Malzahn has already proven he is one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the sport. His two years at Tulsa were as productive as any offense in the nation. The fact that his Tulsa offense generated almost 8,000 yards in 2008, averaging 570 per game, is just plain mind-boggling.
I haven’t seen a lot of hype about offensive line coach Jeff Grimes as a recruiter, but his reputation as an offensive line coach is very good in the western half of the country. Grimes has been hired by some of the best offensive coaches in college football, including Dirk Koetter, Ken Hatfield, Dan Hawkins, Gary Crowton, and Bronco Mendenhall. Being sought by and working with those coaches is pretty impressive to me.
The guy coming in with the biggest recruiting rep, at least around the SEC, is wide receivers coach (and assistant head coach) Trooper Taylor. But, can Trooper coach? Well, let’s see what he’s done with wide receivers. At Tennessee, as running backs coach, he had two 1,000 yard rushers in 2004. In 2006, also at UT, he was wide receivers coach, and made an All-American out of Robert Meachem. That year, 3 UT wide receivers combined for over 2400 yards receiving. The following year, in 2007, three NEW wide receivers combined for 2100 receiving yards. Maybe more impressive than his success at Tennessee is the fact that while at Tulane from 1999-2003, Taylor put 4 wide receivers into the NFL, and had a trio in 2001 lead the country with 2,384 yards on 185 catches.
New AU running backs coach Curtis Luper has impressed already with his successful recruitment of Texas high school QB phenom Tyrik Rollison. But can he coach? As running backs coach at New Mexico, he produced the Mountain West Conference’s all-time career rushing leader. At Oklahoma State in 2006, he had 3 running backs combine for 2000 rushing yards, and the OSU Cowboys led the Big Twelve Conference in rushing in both 2006 and 2007.
Tracy Rocker is admired by defensive line recruits for his own accomplishments as a player, having been a two-time All-American, and winning the Lombardi and Outland awards. But he may be a better coach than he is a recruiter. Rocker’s DL at Ole Miss last year led the nation in tackles for loss, and was 4th in the SEC with 39 sacks. Two of his players earned All-America honors in the 2008 season. Prior to following Houston Nutt to Ole Miss, Rocker coached 1st round draft pick Jamaal Anderson, and NFL draft picks Jeb Huckaba and Keith Jackson.
Bottom line, Yes, these guys can recruit. They can also coach, and based on past history, I’m inclined to think they may be better coaches than recruiters. Only time will tell.

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