TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two weeks before signing day, Alabama football coach Nick Saban has hired Auburn assistant coach James Willis to be linebackers coach.
A week after Tennessee hired Lance Thompson, the Alabama outside linebackers coach and reigning Rivals.com recruiter of the year, Saban targeted Alabama's biggest rival.
"We tried to go out and hire the best possible coaches when this process started and I'm confident we've done that," Saban said in a statement. "James has everything you would want in terms of finding an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter."
Willis, a former standout player at Auburn, had served on the Tigers' staff since 2006. He was the lone holdover after former coach Tommy Tuberville resigned last month.
"(Saban) 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," Willis said in a statement. "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."
Willis, who will also be associate head coach, will take over for Thompson in recruiting talent-rich Mobile. For the 2008 signing class, Thompson signed 10 players, many of them from the area.
According to Rivals.com, Willis was the primary recruiter for seven Tigers commitments and several top targets such as running back Trent Richardson and offensive lineman Brandon Moore.
Saban also hired Sal Sunseri, a former defensive line coach for the NFL Carolina Panthers. Sunseri, a former All-American player at Pittsburgh, will also coach linebackers at Alabama.
Sunseri worked in 2000 for Saban at LSU and for Tide assistant Bobby Williams at Michigan State in 2001.