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December 20, 2012
Garner returning home
AUBURN -- The Tigers' defense and recruiting effort has taken a big step forward.
Rodney Garner, who has spent the past 15 seasons persuading top recruits to sign with Georgia, on Thursday agreed to join Gus Malzahn's staff on the Plains. He graduated from Auburn in 1989 and was an All-SEC performer as a senior.
"Auburn has always been a very special place for me and my wife, Kimberly, who is also an Auburn graduate," Garner said. "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."
After graduation and enjoying a short professional career, Garner was hired by coach Pat Dye and served the Tigers in several roles. He left for Tennessee in 1996 and moved to Georgia with coach Jim Donnan in January 1998.
Garner has been with the Bulldogs ever since and has coached four players who became first-round picks in the NFL Draft. His shrewd ability as a recruiter, helping the Bulldogs accrue talent with ease, has enhanced his value as a college assistant.
"It is great to welcome an Auburn man back home," Malzahn said.
Auburn now has four assistant coaches on staff in addition to Garner -- defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.
Garner coached the defensive line at Georgia. He is expected to assume the same duties with the Tigers.
Garner will be the fifth coach added to Malzahn's staff, joining defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison.
He was named one of the nation's top recruiters in both 2010 and 2011. Garner was the point man for the recruiting enterprise that netted Georgia's "Dream Team" in 2011, which netted tailback Isaiah Crowell, defensive lineman Ray Drew, defensive back Damian Swann and wideout Malcolm Mitchell.
Each player was a 4- or 5-star prospect.
Georgia signed 14 players that year who earned at least four stars from Rivals.com. That number dipped to eight in 2012, though Garner played a major role in landing a pair of 5-star guys in offensive lineman John Theus and athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Garner's work on the field has been solid as well. The Bulldogs finished ninth in rushing yards allowed during the 2011 season and 16th during the team's Sugar Bowl season in 2007.
A press conference consummating Garner's return will be held at 2 p.m. Friday.