The college football offseason started with two new faces making their way to Aggieland. Texas A&M hired T.J. Rushing and Tyler Santucci to fill two vacant roles on Jimbo Fisher’s coaching staff.
Less than a month after he was hired at Florida State, news broke that Rushing, a defensive backs coach for the Seminoles, would accept the same position at A&M.
TexAgs’ Billy Liucci first reported the hire on Jan. 20, and A&M confirmed the news that Rushing would replace Marcus Linguist as the Aggies’ defensive backs coach four days later. Linguist, who joined A&M as a part of Jimbo Fisher’s original staff in 2018, left the Aggies on Jan. 20 to accept the same position with the Dallas Cowboys.
“T.J. has an outstanding track record of playing, teaching and developing quality defensive backs,” Fisher told 12thman.com. “He is a tireless worker, an outstanding recruiter and he coaches with a lot of fire and enthusiasm. He will make a great addition to our coaching staff.”
Rushing, who was introduced as Florida State’s defensive backs coach on Dec. 28, joined the Seminoles from the University of Memphis, where he had worked under new Florida State head coach Mike Norvell and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller. Rushing served as the passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons under Fuller.
At Memphis, Rushing helped lead the Tigers’ defense in 2019 to be 20th in passing defense and 16th in passing defensive efficiency. With Rushing coaching the passing defense, the Tigers were able to earn a school record 12 wins and the school’s first outright conference championship, securing a New Year’s Six bowl appearance in the Cotton Bowl.
During Rushing’s two seasons with the Tigers, Memphis finished with 18 interceptions and 37 total forced turnovers. During the same time frame, A&M managed to record 17 interceptions.
At A&M, Rushing will have the opportunity to coach a defensive backfield with significant growth and experience under its belt. Under Linguist, the Aggies’ secondary developed into a consistent defensive unit, improving its pass defense efficiency from 127th in 2018 to 27th one year later. All but two defensive backs on the Aggies’ roster will return, including two of their starting cornerbacks and both starting safeties.
Rushing’s announcement came one day after the announcement of another coaching hire. On Jan. 23, A&M confirmed a Jan. 16 report from Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports that Wake Forest assistant coach Santucci was accepting the linebackers coaching position at A&M. Santucci, who was Wake Forest’s linebackers coach in 2019, resigned from Wake Forest earlier in the week to take the A&M job.
Santucci is replacing linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto, who spent the last two years coaching under A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko. The team has not made any official statement regarding his status, as Peveto was still under contract for 2020.
Santucci has a history with Elko, having served as a defensive analyst under him at A&M in 2018 and Notre Dame in 2017.
With coaching positions at defensive backs and linebackers filled, the Aggies will still be looking for a new tight ends coach after Joe Jon Finley’s departure. Finley left for the same position at Ole Miss, the Rebels announced in a press release on Jan. 2.