Georgia has lost its longest serving assistant football coach.
Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner is leaving the Bulldogs after 15 seasons to return to his alma mater where he will hold the same positions.
Auburn made the announcement late Thursday night. He will also have the title of assistant head coach like he did at Georgia.
“Rodney is one of the top defensive line coaches in college football who has had great success in the Southeastern Conference,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “We’re excited to welcome an Auburn man back home.”
Garner, 46, is a native of Leeds, Ala., who played at Auburn from 1984-88. He was named All-SEC as an offensive lineman in 1988.
“Auburn has always been a very special place for me and my wife, Kimberly, who is also an Auburn graduate,” Garner said through Auburn. “I owe a lot to Auburn and the men who helped mold me to who I am today both professionally and personally. I’m very appreciative to Coach Malzahn for this opportunity and I feel very strongly that I can be an asset to the program. I have a lot of love for Auburn and I felt this was a great chance to help give back to a place that has given me so much. I look forward to helping get Auburn back to where it belongs.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt would not address after Thursday morning’s practice if Garner even had talked to Auburn about a job.
“I’m not discussing any personnel stuff right now,” Richt said.
Richt did not have any turnover on his staff after last season.
“Dang coach G going to Auburn!” freshman linebacker Josh Dawson tweeted before offering congratulations.
Garner was the third-highest paid assistant on the Georgia staff at $300,000 per season. All but two assistants on Auburn’s staff made $300,000 last year, according to a salary survey by USA Today.
With national signing day less than seven weeks away, Garner’s departure could have some ripple effects on the Bulldogs 2013 class.
It also could impact the decision of junior nose guard Kwame Geathers, who is considering a jump to the NFL.
Defensive line recruit Toby Johnson from HutchinsonCommunity College told DawgPost.com on Thursday night: “I still like Georgia. I just have to see who the new coach is and try to build a relationship with him before February. Georgia is still number one. I just need to talk to the coaching staff.”
Garner will join an Auburn staff that includes Ellis Johnson as defensive coordinator and Charlie Harbison as co-defensive coordinator.
Garner interviewed for the Auburn head coaching job 2008 before Gene Chizik was hired.
Back then he said: “Based on my respect for the Auburn program, we had a conversation about that opportunity.”
Garner also interviewed in recent years at Tennessee, LSU and the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
He coached at Auburn from 1990-95 as recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach.
He said prior to the Auburn game this year that he roots for his alma mater in every other game on the Tigers’ schedule.
“(I cheer for them) all the time, 100 percent,” he said.
An Auburn spokesman said he did not know if Garner will join the Tigers staff right away or remain with Georgia through the Capital One Bowl.
Possible candidates to become recruiting coordinator on Georgia’s staff are tight ends coach John Lilly or running backs coach Bryan McClendon.
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer