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Auburn announces defensive coaching staff for Birmingham Bowl

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

In this Wednesday, April 8, 2015 photo, Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson talks to reporters at the Auburn Athletic Complex in Auburn, Ala. Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson is still chummy with some of his former colleagues at rival Alabama. He also speaks well of his old boss, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, he just hasn’t spoken to him. (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
In this Wednesday, April 8, 2015 photo, Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson talks to reporters at the Auburn Athletic Complex in Auburn, Ala. Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson is still chummy with some of his former colleagues at rival Alabama. He also speaks well of his old boss, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, he just hasn’t spoken to him. (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson is set to temporarily fill former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s shoes.  

In the wake of Muschamp’s and defensive assistant Travaris Robinson’s departure for South Carolina, coach Gus Malzahn outlined what his defensive staff will be for the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 30 at a press conference Monday.

Thompson will call the plays with Travis Williams filling in as the team’s linebackers coach, Blake Gideon coaching the secondary and Rodney Gardner coaching the defensive line.

The staff worked with the defense when players returned to the practice field Monday for the first time since the end of the regular season.

“I feel very good about those guys,” Malzahn said of the staff.

As Malzahn continues his search for a permanent coordinator, Thompson’s lengthy resume made him the obvious choice to run the defense.

“You just look at our staff, he’s familiar with our defense,” Malzahn said. “He’s a veteran guy. These guys will work very closely together. So that had a lot to do with it.”

Thompson was one of the first hires made to fill out Muschamp’s staff in January. Muschamp and Thompson worked together at LSU from 2002-03.

The Citadel alum’s extensive experience in the SEC also includes three stints at Alabama and a two-year stint at Tennessee.

Thompson will run the team’s 15 bowl practices leading up to the matchup against Memphis. Malzahn said one of the key focuses during the stretch is developing the team’s younger players. 

“That’s a big advantage with these bowl practices for that development of your guys as far as fundamentals, development of your young guys and also evaluate your young guys because a lot of these guys have been on the scout team all year, and they’ve been working on the offense and defense of other teams,” Malzahn said. “You can watch them, but when they start doing your offense, your defense, your special teams, they’re actually competing for positions, so it’s a really good thing as far as that goes.”

Thompson’s name has come up as a potential candidate to replace Muschamp, but Malzahn has declined on two occasions to say if he would be considered or interviewed for the position.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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