Tennessee’s Tommy Thigpen: Auburn has rebounded because of dynamic QB, return of Gus Malzahn (with video)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen spent four years as an assistant at Auburn before joining Butch Jones‘ staff last December.

He was part of a national championship team in 2010 and a team in 2012 that went 0-8 in the SEC.

Auburn (8-1, 4-1 SEC) has bounced back quickly. The Tigers play Tennessee (4-5, 1-4) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, noon).

What happened between 2012 and today? The Tigers once again have a dynamic quarterback and Gus Malzahn.

“When Gus was there, we won 8 games every year, plus a national championship. They were scoring points. That was the theme,” Thigpen said.

Malzahn left after the 2011 season for a one-year stint as head coach at Arkansas State.

Thigpen on the 2012 season:

“Gus has always had success when he’s been (at Auburn)….Those kids, it’s not like they couldn’t play. We played Clemson until the last minute. We played Mississippi State to the last second. We played LSU until the last second. (In 2013), they got a lot of success really early and their kids started to believe. Last year, we fell off track and things went the other way.”

Thigpen on Auburn in 2013:

“They’ve got a dynamic quarterback and guys have rallied around him. It’s like any team, if you’ve got a dynamic quarterback, you’re going to win a lot of football games.”

Thigpen on whether he’s surprised by Auburn’s start:

“They finished top 5,6 (in recruiting) every year. So the personnel is there.”

Thigpen on Cam Newton:

“He was one of the dynamic players and best character kids I’ve ever been around.”

Thigpen on whether this game will be tough for him:

“I came to Tennessee to win ballgames. That’s our No. 1 goal.”