AUBURN, Ala. -- The process of reshaping Auburn’s coaching staff under Gene Chizik took another turn Tuesday.
Defensive assistant Tommy Thigpen, who has served as the Tigers’ safeties coach the past three seasons, is moving to linebackers coach under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
“After carefully evaluating our staff, I feel this restructuring best suits our program,” Chizik said.
Thigpen, a linebacker during his playing days at North Carolina and with the New York Giants, served as North Carolina’s linebackers coach for four seasons before Chizik hired him in 2009 as an original member of his coaching staff.
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Thigpen also coached linebackers at Illinois in 2004 and Tennessee State in 2000.
Under the original division of responsibilities on Chizik’s staff, Thigpen served as safeties coach, and former assistant Phillip Lolley coached the cornerbacks, but Lolley’s move back into an administrative role this offseason opened the door for Auburn to hire former Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez to coach the secondary.
Thigpen’s move allows Martinez to have full control over the secondary. Martinez has been the secondary coach at Oklahoma the past two seasons, and he spent four years as a secondary coach at Georgia when VanGorder was the defensive coordinator.
VanGorder, who has been a linebackers coach for the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, should be able to oversee the entire defense without a positional responsibility, a luxury former defensive coordinator Ted Roof did not have.
Roof coached linebackers the past three years.
In previous stops at Georgia, Western Illinois, Central Florida and Grand Valley State, VanGorder coached the linebackers in addition to his duties as defensive coordinator, but Thigpen’s move allows former Falcons coordinator VanGorder to transition back to the college game without carrying a position responsibility.