Tide hires Auburn’s Willis

TUSCALOOSA — Anything Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin can do, Alabama’s Nick Saban figures he can do better.

About a week after the rival Vols seized his own ace Mobile recruiter, Saban turned the trick on Auburn for Lance Thompson’s replacement. Tigers linebackers coach James Willis — the only assistant retained by Gene Chizik from former coach Tommy Tuberville’s staff — was hired Wednesday by Alabama.
Willis replaces Thompson as a Crimson Tide linebackers coach and presumably chief Mobile-area recruiter. A Huntsville native and Auburn linebacker from 1990-92, Willis spent the past three seasons coaching the same position at his alma mater.

I’m excited about the opportunity to come and work with coach Saban at the University of Alabama,” Willis, who will also have the title of associate head coach, said in a statement. “He is one of the best defensive coaches in the game and this is a chance to gain some great experience and learn from the best. You don’t get many chances like that in the coaching business. When you combine that opportunity with the history and tradition at Alabama, it was a decision that was best for me personally as well as professionally.”