Thigpen to Coach LB; Martinez to Handle the Secondary
12-29-11 Auburn Bowl Week - Thursday
Despite losing a senior starter (Aairon Savage) midway through the 2010 season, Thigpen developed a unit that was instrumental in Auburn posting the Southeastern Conference's best, and ninth-best nationally, rushing defense.
The Tigers allowed just 109.1 yards rushing per game in 2010, with safety Zac Etheridge registering 69 tackles, second-most on the team. Etheridge earned All-SEC honorable mention honors. As a group, Thigpen's safeties combined for 186 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and three interceptions. In Auburn's two biggest games that year, Thigpen directed a unit that helped hold South Carolina to just 17 points in the SEC Championship Game and Oregon to 19 points in the BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers defense held the high-powered Ducks 28 points under their season average and produced a pair of interceptions.
During his first season at Auburn, the Tigers ranked 17th in the nation in opponent third down conversion percentage (32.8) and forced 24 turnovers. His safeties helped the Auburn defense rank 31st nationally in pass defense efficiency and pick off 17 passes - tied for third most in the SEC.
Thigpen instructed Daren Bates in 2009, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after starting all 13 games and ranking fourth on the team with 70 tackles as a true freshman.
Thigpen has also earned a reputation as an exceptional recruiter, and was named one of the nation's top 25 recruiters in 2007 by Rivals.com.
Prior to coming to Auburn, Thigpen coached the linebackers at North Carolina for four seasons from 2005-08. A former All-ACC linebacker at North Carolina himself, Thigpen tutored UNC's leading tacklers in each of his four seasons at Chapel Hill. Thigpen coached for two years at Illinois, serving as the cornerbacks coach in 2003 and the linebackers coach in 2004.
He began his coaching career as a UNC graduate assistant in 1998-99. He then coached linebackers at Tennessee State in 2000. In 2001-02, he coached cornerbacks and was the special team's coordinator at Bowling Green State.
At Bowling Green State, Thigpen helped coach one of the Mid-American Conference's top defenses, leading the MAC in turnover margin in 2002. BGSU also finished second in the MAC in pass efficiency defense, while Thigpen's special teams also were impressive, blocking seven punts and one field goal.
A four-year letterwinner at North Carolina from 1989-92, Thigpen was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker, earning first-team honors in 1991. He was co-captain of the 1992 team that went 9-3 were Peach Bowl champions. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Carolina.
Thigpen played professionally for the New York Giants in 1993-94 and the Barcelona Dragons in 1995-96.
Thigpen is married to the former Jacinda Webb and the couple have two daughters, Asia and Naja. In May 2008, Thigpen was selected by the Atlantic Coast Conference to attend the Minority Coaches Forum in Phoenix.
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