ATHENS, Ga. -- The longest-tenured coach on Georgia's staff is ending that run just shy of 15 years.
Rodney Garner has accepted an offer to join new head coach Gus Malzahn's first staff at Auburn. The Tigers announced Thursday night a move that gives Georgia its first assistant coaching vacancy since Feb. 2011.
“We excited to announce Rodney Garner as our assistant head coach and defensive line coach,” Malzahn said in a statement. “Rodney is one of the top defensive line coaches in college football who has had great success in the Southeastern Conference. We’re excited to welcome an Auburn man back home.”
A former Auburn player and native of Leeds, Ala., Garner previously coached at Auburn from 1990-95.
“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.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham confirmed Thursday night to Dawgs247 that he'll be making the hire to replace Garner and he'll be hiring a defensive line coach rather than moving another assistant (or himself) to the defensive line to fill Garner's spot.
Georgia's final on-campus bowl practice is scheduled for Friday morning, and per Auburn, Garner will be in Auburn to meet with reporters Friday afternoon. He is not expected to stay with UGA through the bowl game.
"I want to thank Rodney for 15 years of loyal service to UGA." UGA coach Mark Richt said in a statement. "He was the first assistant I hired when I came to Georgia, and it turned out to be a great decision. He's a tremendous ball coach, recruiter, mentor and great example of what a good father and husband should be. He's been a blessing to my life as well as to UGA. We wish him and Kim all the best."
The Bulldogs' assistant head coach/defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, Garner's time at UGA dates back to the Jim Donnan era, making him the longest tenured coach on Georgia's staff, exceeding even head coach Mark Richt.
The 46-year-old Garner developed a reputation as one of the SEC's best recruiters during his time at Georgia. He had numerous flirtations without actually leaving Richt's staff.
With this latest move, Garner's salary Auburn is expected to exceed the $300,000 he was making at UGA.