With rival No. 2 Alabama preparing to take on top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, Auburn also made some news on Thursday.
Ten-year NFL veteran Rich Bisaccia was named special teams and running backs coach and assistant head coach for Auburn, coach Gus Malzahn announced in a statement.
Bisaccia, 52, coached special teams with the San Diego Chargers for the past two seasons and also held the title of assistant head coach this past season. Prior to his time in San Diego, Bisaccia spent nine seasons coaching special teams with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers including during the 2002 Super Bowl winning-season.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for me to return to the college game at a program like Auburn,” Bisaccia said in a statement. “I have an incredible amount of respect for Auburn and coach Malzahn. I met Gus in the spring of 2010 and 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 and I had previously worked with (defensive coordinator) Ellis Johnson and (co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach) 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.”
Terms of Bisaccia’s contract were not released. With Bisaccia’s role of assistant head coach, Rodney Garner will assume the role of associate head coach and defensive line coach.
The Chargers ranked 13th in kickoff returns with one return touchdown, 15th in punt returns, 10th in kickoff return defense and 13th in punt return defense in the NFL this season according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Chargers punter Mike Scrifes ranked third in punt yards and kicker Nick Novak’s 90 percent (18-for-20) field goal kicking was eighth-best in the league.
San Diego fired head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith on Monday after finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
Bisaccia coached special teams in Tampa Bay from 2002-10 and added the title of associate head coach for the 2008-10 season. He also coached running backs with the Buccaneers in 2008, including Auburn alum Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.
“Rich is widely regarded as the one of the top special teams coaches in all of football and has coached several elite running backs, so we’re thrilled to have him join our staff,” Malzahn said in a statement. “Rich’s resume speaks for itself. He has been a part of some outstanding teams, including a Super Bowl Champion in Tampa Bay. 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.”
Before coaching in the NFL, Bisaccia spent the first 19 years of his career at the collegiate level including in the SEC with stops at Ole Miss (1999-2001) and South Carolina (1988-93) which included work with special teams as well as running backs.
Considered one of the stronger areas for Auburn during Gene Chizik’s four-year coaching tenure, the Tigers ranked 49th in kickoff returns and 58th in punt returns but 3rd in kickoff return defense and 2nd in punt return defense this year.
Malzahn made a second addition to his coaching staff Thursday, hiring former Auburn quarterback and current Florida State quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig to be co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.