Alabama hires James Willis

Saban hires defesive coach James Willis. Willis comes from Auburn. Here is the official release from UA.
JAMES WILLIS COMPLETES ALABAMA FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF
TUSCALOOSA — Alabama head coach Nick Saban also announced the hiring of James Willis on Wednesday. Willis will serve as associate head coach and work with the linebackers. Willis, a seven-year NFL veteran, joins the Crimson Tide after serving as an assistant coach at Auburn.

“I’m extremely pleased and happy to have James join our staff,” said head coach Nick Saban. “We tried to go out and hire the best possible coaches when this process started and I’m confident we’ve done that. James has everything you would want in terms of finding an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter with a lot of enthusiasm and intensity. He’s played in the SEC and the NFL, and grew up and coached in the state of Alabama so he will be able to contribute in many areas and make a positive impact as we continue to build a championship program here at Alabama. We’re glad to have the Willis family here with us at the University of Alabama.”

Willis spent the last three years as the linebackers coach at Auburn. The Tigers ranked No. 7 nationally in scoring defense in 2006 and followed that up with a No. 6 ranking in 2007 and a No. 14 ranking in scoring defense last season. Auburn appeared in two bowls during his tenure – the 2007 AT&T Cotton Bowl and the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Tigers defeated Nebraska 17-14 in the Cotton Bowl and defeated Clemson 23-20 in overtime in the Chick-fil-A. Willis also coached a pair of Freshman All-Americans at linebacker at Auburn in Tray Blackmon (2006) and Spencer Pybus (2008).

“I’m excited about the opportunity to come and work with Coach Saban at the University of Alabama,” said Willis. “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. I know my wife and the kids are as excited as I am to join Coach Saban’s staff.”

Prior to his stint at Auburn, Willis coached the linebackers at Temple (2005) and Rhode Island (2004-05). He coached Rhode Island linebacker Teddy Gibbons to team MVP and All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors in 2004. In 2003, Willis was a defensive graduate assistant at Auburn after working as a student assistant the previous two years at AU.

Willis spent seven seasons in the NFL and one season in the XFL. He began his professional career with the Green Bay Packers (2003-04) before making the move to Philadelphia (1995-98) where he was a three-year starter for the Eagles. His final NFL season was in 1999 with the Seattle Seahawks and his playing career concluded in 2001 with the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the XFL.

As a collegiate player, Willis was a three-year starter at Auburn (1990-92). He recorded 344 career tackles and was a member of the 1990 Peach Bowl team. Willis was a first team All-SEC selection in 1992 and was the SEC Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year in 1990. A fifth round draft pick by Green Bay following his junior season, Willis returned to earn his degree in Adult Education from Auburn.

Willis was born in Huntsville, Ala. and played high school football at J.O. Johnson High School where he was a Parade All-American as a linebacker. He and his wife, Shalane are the proud parents of daughter Jade and sons Jalen and Jordan James.

7 Comments

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  1. 1
    News Review

    Another move of Alabama to best improve its coaching staff.. Willis’ records show that he is really fit for the job.. Hope he is.. This may be a step towards more of his success..

  2. 2
    tmc1

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  3. 3
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Hold it boys. I thought that Auburn had a sub par staff ? Whats the deal ? Either our coaches suck or they dont. Ill bet James Willis is the best linebackers coach in the whole country now isnt he ?

    But seriously, yall got a good one. Its hard to see an Auburn grad leave for the archenenmy. But Im sure he did what was best for him and his family. Good luck to James Willis.

  4. 4
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Bamaman. Im sure you got a heck of a kick out of this didnt you ?

  5. 5
    Bamaman

    Ballplay, actually I was just talking to a coworker about this and I told him I did not want anything Auburn has, that is the truth. It is odd to me that he would leave for reportedly no more money though. Aub went back and offered him after he was initially let go because of the uproar from the fan base about what a good coach and recruiter he was, I bet Aub thinks he was subpar in both areas now. I guess he wanted to work for the National Coach of the Year (12-2) instead of the National Joke of the Year (2-10) Let me go on record now as saying I don’t think this was a smart hire.

  6. 6
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Bamaman, It was a good hire. Do you think that Nick Saban would have hired him if he didnt think he was a good coach? Of course he wouldnt have. Say what you will but he would not hire an Auburn ass. out from under us just to piss people off. Hes a smarter man than that. Willis is a players coach. A great recruiter, and and an excellent linebackers coach. You wait and see if Bama doesnt do light years better against the spread teams with him. With the talent yall have at linebacker, a coach like him will be all it takes to lock it down on defense. It also wouldnt suprise me at all to find out that Willis may have some sway with a couple of players that Saban wants.

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