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Replacing The Rock

Turns out Auburn is losing two Lombardi winners to the NFL.

Lost in the chaos and dolor of the news from the corner of College and Magnolia earlier this week, was the news that Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is leaving the Tiger’s coaching staff for  a job with the Tennessee Titans. The rumors that had been swirling for weeks that Rocker was high on the Titans’ wish list didn’t stop when they made a change at head coach, and eventually proved true. Rocker will get to coach a defensive line that includes a young third year player named Sen’Derrick Marks. Rocker has never coached Marks, and Marks has never been coached by Rocker, but something tells me that those two are going to get along just fine.

Rocker’s departure is significant not only because Auburn will be without a great defensive line coach, but also because Gene Chizik’s first staff — the staff that just won a national championship — will never be whole again.

We all knew someone would leave sooner than later. But we thought that maybe it would be Gus Malzahn, to head coach for another team and shred our defense for the next decade or so. Or we thought it would be Trooper Taylor, with his long resume, taking the next step as an offensive coordinator somewhere. And, always, there was (and forever remains) the very real possibility that Texas could snatch away Ted Roof at any given moment.

Instead, it was Tracy Rocker. He’ll leave Auburn, but his accomplishments during his short time as a coach — let alone a player — won’t soon be forgotten. In his short two years he coached two players to leading the SEC in sacks in consecutive seasons. He topped his achievement in Antonio Coleman in 2009 by taking a little guy named Nick Fairley, who could hardly find a position, and turning him into the Lombardi Award winner and projected No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He is a great teacher.

But possibly the hardest thing to replace will be Coach Rock’s foundational presence on this coaching staff, and his impact on this team.

It won’t be easy for Gene Chizik to find a coach with as much drive and passion for Auburn as Tracy Rocker had, or with as much experience in the SEC as Tracy Rocker had, let alone a coach as good as Tracy Rocker. But he did it once, and despite where we are on the calendar in the annual coaching carousel*, there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again (he seems to know a little something when it comes to hiring assistant coaches).

The HOT rumor right now as to who it might be is that there is no HOT rumor, mostly because everyone, from the beat guys all the way up to NBC News, is covering the happenings elsewhere on campus.**

Where Chizik will start his search is anyone’s guess. There isn’t much indication with his choices for this staff, or anyone he had on his staff at Iowa State, that he favors or trends to coaches he knows, or to a given coaching style. Perhaps whoever it is can do an even better job than Rocker… maybe bring us a couple more Lombardi trophies. Here’s hoping he’ll channel his newest player Gabe Wright, and walk in the doors with a custom embroidered hat:

“Tracy who?”

*By the way, Titans, next time you poach one of our coaches, do it in a timely manner, please. Thanks.

**Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the Toomer’s Corner story is its sheer magnitude, displayed here in how it has absolutely DWARFED this story.

Photo via.

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