An Auburn football legend is coming back to where it all started.
Tracy Rocker accepted the job as Auburn’s defensive line coach Monday, returning to the school where he put together an All-American and Hall of Fame college career.
“Coming back is a great honor,” said Rocker, who spent last season as Ole Miss’ defensive line coach.
Rocker, 42, will coach the entire defensive line.
Never miss a local story.
He is the seventh assistant coach to join Auburn’s staff, leaving two positions — offensive line and secondary — still vacant.
Rocker finished his college career as one of the most distinguished players in Auburn history.
A three-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American, he was named SEC Player of the Year and received the both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award following his senior season in 1988.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
“It’s a tremendous privilege to be able to add to our staff one of the greatest players to ever wear an Auburn uniform,” Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said in a press release. “Tracy’s ability as an All-American player and his reputation nationally as a defensive line coach will provide instant credibility to our players and recruits.”
Rocker, who had coaching stops at West Alabama, Troy State and Cincinnati following a two-year NFL career, coached with Houston Nutt the last six seasons — five at Arkansas and one at Ole Miss.
“It was a great six years,” Rocker said. “I enjoyed it, but it comes a time when we all have to part ways and move on in this type of business.”
Last season, the Rebels finished tied for first nationally with 112 tackles for loss and tied for fourth with 39 sacks.
“There’s no question he did a phenomenal job with our line,” Nutt told the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi. “Especially when some of our guys were out early with injuries, he really built some outstanding depth that helped us win games this season.”
Rocker signed a three-year contract worth $210,000 annually with Ole Miss last year. He will make around $400,000 at Auburn, according to AuburnSports.com.
Rocker already knows some faces at Auburn. He’s familiar with defensive coordinator Ted Roof and defensive assistant James Willis from his playing days. He and Gus Malzahn coached on the same staff at Arkansas in 2006.
Rocker and Chizik’s relationship goes back to the late-’90s. Rocker was the defensive line coach for coordinator Wayne Bolt at Troy. The staff would often travel to meet with Chizik, who was then the defensive coordinator for Central Florida.
Rocker said he hasn’t had time to evaluate the Tigers’ personnel on the defensive line, which got a boost from the return of end Antonio Coleman after taking a hit when tackle Sen’Derrick Marks declared for the NFL draft.
“It’s a clean slate right now,” Rocker said.
He did expound on his defensive line philosophy.
“One thing I know about playing down there is that you don’t really get an off down,” he said. “You’ve got to lay it on the line on every snap. The most important thing … is doing your best and leaving it on the field and not getting back and saying, well, coulda, shoulda, woulda.”
NOTES: Auburn moved its annual A-Day spring football game back to Saturday, April 18. The game, which was originally scheduled for March 28, starts at 2 p.m. The Tigers are tentatively scheduled to start spring practice March 24. … Onterio McCalebb, the No. 1 prep school running back in the nation, is expected to enroll at Auburn on Wednesday, according to AuburnSports.com. McCalebb spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy. He would be the Tigers’ third mid-year enrollee, joining two junior college transfers, defensive lineman Nick Fairley and linebacker Eltoro Freeman.