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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2006
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BRADLEY HANDWERGER

New Auburn linebackers coach James Willis served as a defensive graduate assistant for the Tigers during 2003.
AP Photo by Todd Van Emst
New Auburn linebackers coach James Willis served as a defensive graduate assistant for the Tigers during 2003.

Ex-AU standout gets a chance to come home

No one can say Tommy Tuberville isn't quick.

At least not in 2006.

Auburn's head coach announced Monday that former Tigers standout James Willis will replace Joe Whitt, who retired Friday, as linebackers coach.

Willis, 33, comes from Temple, where he was hired fewer than two months ago to coach the linebackers. Before that, Willis coached at Division I-AA Rhode Island.

"The opportunity to be able to come back and coach at your alma mater is an outstanding thing," Willis said. "It's one of those things you jump on and take advantage."

Willis was a three-year starter at linebacker for Auburn during 1990-92 and was named co-Southeastern Conference defensive freshman of the year in 1990.

In addition, he coached at Auburn as a student and graduate assistant from 2001-03.

Knowing Tuberville and most of the assistants made the decision easier.

"Sometimes nerves take the best of you," Willis said. "For me, I was coming home. When you come home and you step into that room with friends and familiar faces, it's a little different."

The move ends a whirlwind week for Tuberville. On Wednesday, he announced his 2006 signing class.

A day later, defensive coordinator David Gibbs left Auburn for the NFL, agreeing to coach the secondary for the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Friday, Tuberville announced the hiring of Will Muschamp to serve as Auburn's defensive coordinator. At the same time, Tuberville disclosed that Whitt would be stepping down to take a position with Tigers Unlimited, the fundraising arm of the athletics department.

  • Currie on watch list: The Amateur Softball Association named Auburn junior pitcher Holly Currie to its USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year watch list.

    Currie tied an Auburn record a season ago with 17 home runs and broke a school record with 65 RBIs. As a pitcher, she finished 24-11, compiling 250 strikeouts and a 1.95 ERA.

  • Gymnastics team bitten by Gators: Auburn's 17th-ranked gymnastics team recorded its highest score of the year Friday night with a 195.725. It wasn't enough, though, as No. 5 Florida came up with 196.0.

    There was a bright spot, however.

    Auburn's Julie Dwyer won her fourth straight all-around by matching her career high (39.375).

  • Baseball, softball live through the Web: Auburn's baseball and softball teams both will have games shown live on the Internet this season.

    In all, 42 games will be shown online, with the split coming down the middle — 21 baseball games and 21 softball.

    The entire slate of games can be seen at auburntigers.com.

  • Bradley Handwerger Bradley Handwerger
    DAILY Sports Writer

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