Rodney Garner, the veteran of Georgia's football coaching staff, finally decided to go home.
Auburn University announced late Thursday night that Garner has accepted the opportunity to become defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the Tigers. The 46-year-old Garner played at Auburn from 1984 to '88 and was with his alma mater from 1990 to '95 as either the recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach or a strength and conditioning assistant.
Garner, who is from the Birmingham suburb of Leeds, is the fifth announced hire by new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
"Auburn has always been a very special place for me and my wife, Kimberly, who is also an Auburn graduate," Garner said in a statement. "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."
The Tigers were 3-9 this past season and lost eight Southeastern Conference games for the first time in program history.
Garner was a Tennessee assistant in 1996 and '97 before being hired at Georgia by former Bulldogs coach Jim Donnan. He was the only assistant retained by current Georgia coach Mark Richt, who was hired to replace Donnan after the 2000 season.
The Bulldogs have assembled top 20 recruiting classes every year since Garner's arrival, finishing in the top 10 a majority of the time. Georgia has 30 commitments for the 2013 signing class, and Garner said recently that as many as half could enroll early.
"Rodney is one of the top defensive line coaches in college football who has had great success in the Southeastern Conference," Malzahn said. "We're excited to welcome an Auburn man back home."
A cousin of former Auburn and NBA great Charles Barkley, Garner was a starting offensive guard on Auburn's 1987 and '88 SEC championship teams. He was a backup noseguard during the '86 season before moving to offense.
Garner was the third-highest paid Georgia assistant at $300,000, but he is expected to make more than that at Auburn. He declined previous invitations to join Auburn's staff from Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik, who led Auburn to the 2010 national championship but was fired last month.
Always active in offseason coaching changes, Garner also interviewed in recent years with LSU, Tennessee and the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
For more information, read Saturday's Times Free Press.