AUBURN, Ala. – Now that the NFL season has ended for 20 teams, Auburn’s scope could zoom in on potential assistants from the highest level.
The Tigers moved one step closer to completing its 2013 football staff, bringing in well-regarded veteran Rich Bisaccia from the San Diego Chargers, named Thursday as Auburn’s assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
The continuity trend continues, as head coach Gus Malzahn seeks assistants who have some familiarity with each other – even when they’re brought in from either coast.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for me to return to the college game at a program like Auburn,” Bisaccia said. “I had previously worked with (Auburn co-defensive coordinators) Ellis Johnson and Charlie Harbison, so I knew the type of staff that Gus was putting together. I’m excited and ready to help Auburn return to a championship-caliber team.”
Bisaccia, 52, said he met Malzahn in the spring of 2010, months before Auburn’s then-offensive coordinator helped lead the Tigers to a national championship.
“I have an incredible amount of respect for Auburn and coach Malzahn,” Bisaccia said. “I have followed his cutting-edge offense and what he’s accomplished as a coach since he started coaching in college. He’s a man of character.”
Bisaccia is considered a special teams guru – this will be his 25th consecutive season coaching the kickers, punters, returners and coverage units at six different locations.
Those include both the college ranks – South Carolina (1989-93), Clemson (1994-98) and Ole Miss (1999-01) – as well as the pros. Bisaccia was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-10 – earning a Super Bowl XXXVII ring his first season – and then with the San Diego Chargers in 2011-12.
The Chargers’ staff is being dismantled after a 7-9 season and the firing of general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner. Two former Auburn greats Bisaccia helped coach are Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams and San Diego linebacker Takeo Spikes.
“Rich’s resume speaks for itself,” Malzahn said in a university statement. “He has been a part of some outstanding teams … he has coached several running backs and special teams players that were among the very best in the game at both the collegiate and professional level.”
Auburn’s release was clear to mention Rodney Garner, already named recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, will have the title of associate head coach, which technically is a step above Bisaccia’s assistant head coach label.
Eventually during his two NFL stints with the Buccaneers and Chargers lasting a combined 11 years, Bisaccia was ultimately risen to the title of assistant or associate head coach, which means exactly how it sounds – it lends some extraneous responsibilities similar to what a head coach would handle, and almost always represents a hike in salary.
Bisaccia’s Auburn contract was not immediately disclosed.
Coursing his 30 years in coaching, Bisaccia has coached every position on the field except linebackers at some point or another. He has only been involved with running backs once since 2001 – in the 2008 season, when Williams battled torn patellar tendons in both knees and the Bucs finished 15th in NFL rushing offense.
Bisaccia inherits 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason, along with former All-American fullback Jay Prosch and tailbacks Mike Blakely and Corey Grant. Veteran kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark should be back for their senior seasons, and returners Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis bring experience.
Auburn has two coaching openings left, and the only positions without a guide remain wide receivers and tight ends, which theoretically could be merged with one coach. That strategy would flex the final remaining spot into combining with any position group or otherwise duties.
Bisaccia fills the voids left by Trooper Taylor (assistant head coach), Curtis Luper (running backs) and Jay Boulware (tight ends).
1983 Defensive Backs and Special Teams, Wayne State
1984-87 Quarterbacks and Receivers, Wayne State
1988 Grad Asst., Tight Ends and Wide Receivers, South Carolina
1989-90 Volunteer Asst., Def. Ends and Special Teams, South Carolina
1991 Volunteer Asst., Tight Ends and Special Teams, South Carolina
1992-93 Running Backs and Special Teams, South Carolina
1994-98 Running Backs and Special Teams, Clemson
1999 Running Backs and Special Teams, Ole Miss
2000-01 Assistant Head Coach, Running Backs and Special Teams, Ole Miss
2002-07 Special Teams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2008 Associate Head Coach, Special Teams and Running Backs, Tampa Bay
2009-10 Associate Head Coach and Special Teams, Tampa Bay
2011 Special Teams, San Diego Chargers
2012 Assistant Head Coach—Special Teams, San Diego Chargers