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November 28, 2012

What becomes of Auburn’s assistant coaches? Most, if not all, will probably go elsewhere

AUBURN, Ala. — There’s a distinct likelihood none of the nine Auburn assistant coaches are back in 2013.

That’s the nature of regime changes. The coordinators and position coaches have been offered the opportunity to stick around in the interim by athletic director Jay Jacobs, and none have publicly announced their departure. Multiple assistants were spotted at the football facilities Tuesday — business as usual.

Whomever Auburn chooses to replace Gene Chizik, to be clear, will have the final say on who stays and who goes. In fact, Auburn University’s preliminary release announcing Chizik’s firing Sunday had already dictated the total staff’s buyout to tally $11.09 million (a figure which will be mitigated by future employment.

Here is a brief look at the status of the Tigers’ assistants, who collectively are running the show for the time being:

JAY BOULWARE, special teams coordinator/tight ends

Age: 40

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 16

What his future holds: Boulware is the only man who’s been on staff all six years Chizik has been a head coach. During that time, Boulware’s been an above-average special teams coach, so Chizik’s replacement would be wise to give him a look. Otherwise, maybe Boulware goes back somewhere in his native Texas.

JEFF GRIMES, offensive line

Age: 44

Salary: $400,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Grimes’ unit was plagued by youth and rocky health this year. If Grimes does leave – and he was spotted at the football complex Tuesday – perhaps he hooks up with beleaguered Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, his college coach at UTEP in the late 1980s, who could be looking for work himself.

SCOT LOEFFLER, offensive coordinator

Age: 38

Salary: $500,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: His first foray into running a major-college offense did not go well. Auburn finished its season averaging 305 yards a game, ranked 118th in the country and dead-last in the SEC. Quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier couldn’t stop getting sacked, Clint Moseley couldn’t throw downfield or stop getting hurt, and Jonathan Wallace couldn’t score against Georgia or Auburn. Probably a one-and-done on the Plains.

CURTIS LUPER, running backs/recruiting coordinator

Age: 46

Salary: $330,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Four seasons, four 1,000-yard tailbacks. Not too shabby. Luper could help establish Tre Mason as perhaps the SEC’s top runner. Luper is also hard at work to keep this No. 10-ranked recruiting class of 2013 together with Scotch tape. He is reportedly on the road soon, which would indicate Auburn’s not worried about NCAA investigations. Luper’s son, Auburn High quarterback Curtis Echols-Luper, is committed to Texas A&M.

WILLIE MARTINEZ, defensive backs

Age: 49

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 22

What his future holds: Like Grimes, inexperience and injury proved a nasty combination. Only one interception by the secondary is brutal, but at least the DBs contained top receivers, and Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones appear to have solid futures. Martinez is tied to the hip with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, as former colleagues at Georgia. He’s well-traveled, logging time at 11 different institutions since 1985.

MIKE PELTON, defensive line

Age: 41

Salary: $300,000

Seasons at Auburn: 2

Seasons in college coaching: 12

What his future holds: The lone Auburn grad of the group, he may want to stay specifically for that reason. Problem is, his linemen were disastrous in 2012 – the ends were inconsistent, and the tackles were underwhelming. If junior Corey Lemonier doesn’t leave to test the NFL waters, this unit is more enticing. Pelton likely won’t get a third chance to coach ‘em up.

TROOPER TAYLOR, wide receivers/assistant head coach

Age: 42

Salary: $425,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 19

What his future holds: He’s essentially the godfather of the existing and future players. Verbal commits have hinted if Trooper goes, they go. His value is less in his coaching duties – the wide receivers not named Emory Blake were nonexistent in their impact – and more in his recruiting connections. Along with Luper, if Auburn has signed off on them traveling, the reported NCAA inquiries might not be serious. Players love him, but his backward-hat, towel-waving act may be wearing thin on fans.

TOMMY THIGPEN, linebackers

Age: 42

Salary: $320,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: Tackling continues to be an issue regardless of the coordinator, which could be a question for Thigpen if he stays on. He’s another employee whose stock remains high on the recruiting front. His kinship with Gus Malzahn could be a factor if the former Auburn offensive coordinator is brought back to the Plains.

BRIAN VANGORDER, defensive coordinator

Age: 53

Salary: $850,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college/NFL coaching: 24

What his future holds: “I’m more interested in getting better and making sure our culture is one to play championship football in the future.” That was part of VanGorder’s impassioned rant Oct. 13 after Ole Miss hung 41 on the Tigers. He once was spared blame for this horrendous season when the defense at least played somewhat capably against Clemson and LSU. But the way Auburn finished — letting Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama positively have their way with the Tigers — casts doubt on whether VanGorder makes sense to get a reprieve in 2012. He’s got too much cachet not to land on his feet if he is dismissed, but overseeing the worst defense in school history (420.5 yards) is a black mark on the resume.


  1. Both Grimes and Boulware appear to be stars as position coaches and I would like to see them stay at Auburn.

    Regarding Luper, Taylor, and Thigpen; I would hope the new HC would give them serious consideration. There are likely many pros and cons for each that only those close to the situation would be in a position to make an informed decision.

    As for the rest, they have worked hard and done what they could, but it’s time for some fresh faces.

    Comment by JoeinFP — November 28, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  2. Can’t imagine Loeffler would be retained… I think he’s the main reason the season was a bust, but he was just trying to do what Chizik’s wanted…

    Comment by WestCoastAubie — November 28, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  3. First, hire Petrino.

    Keep: Vangorder, Martinez, Grimes

    Get rid of: Loeffler, Trooper Taylor, Luper, Thigpen, Pelton

    Comment by AUboss — November 28, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  4. VanGorder had so much success before coming to Auburn it may be worthwhile to have him stay. Before the Alabama game he expressed a strong desire to stay. Auburn’s problems with tackling and other fundamentals on defense have existed for years. Should VanGorder be blamed for not correcting the problem in the first year at Auburn or did problems exist beyond what he could manage? His resume tugs at me to say give him another year.

    Comment by Tim — November 28, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  5. VANGorder was terrible with the Falcons.

    Comment by Rick — November 28, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  6. “VANGorder was terrible with the Falcons.” Agreed !
    However, he does bring a kick-butt attitdue that Auburn needs….think that is needed.

    I say hire Malzahn and have double as OC. Keep Taylor but take him out of “coaching”….he’s terrible….a kid that plays cheerleader….clearly doesn’t know how to cuach….BUT, keep him as a recruiter…..pay him the $$$ to do what he is good at. Malzahn can also tutor the DC on how to stop (OK, slow down) the spread.

    Get rid of the rest of them….fundamentals were terrible and that is a position coaches job !!!!!!

    Comment by Eric — November 28, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

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