Ole Miss let Randy Clements go after the conclusion of spring practice. After a month of or so of deliberation, the Rebels have announced the hiring of former Alabama staffer and Gardner Webb run game coordinator and offensive line coach Jake Thornton as the new guy in charge of the big uglies, as first reported by Matt Zenitz.
As a player, Thornton started his career at Division II Carson-Newman before transferring to Western Carolina in 2012. He had 33-consecutive starts and helped the Catamounts to consecutive seven-win seasons and second-place finishes in the Southern Conference. Thornton was named first-team All-SoCon in 2014 and second-team All-SoCon in 2015.
Thornton started his coaching career in 2016 as an offensive quality control assistant and assistant offensive line coach at his alma mater. That year, the Catamounts put up 4,252 yards of total offense and quarterback Tyrie Adams was named SoCon Freshman of the Year.
After that, he made his way to Tuscaloosa where he was an offensive line graduate assistant on the National Championship staff at the University of Alabama in 2017. That offensive line featured NFL Draft picks Jonah Williams (1st round, 2019), Ross Pierschbacher (5th round, 2019) and second-team All-SEC selection Bradley Bozeman (2017).
In an interview, Thornton had this to say about his time spent under Nick Saban:
“I learned what being attentive to details means...I learned to watch different things and how to coach players and how to win by being around those guys. Coach Saban taught me a lot of lessons and how to handle different things. It was a very fantastic experience for me, especially being a younger guy, and I have been honored to be a part of his staff for the time I was.”
Lastly, before making his way to Gardner Webb, Thornton was on staff at Tennessee Tech. There, his offensive line made way for Bailey Fisher and his 4,501 offensive yards in 2019. Guard Trevor Stephens was named a Freshman All-American. A year later, sophomore guard Mike Rhoades was named second-team All-OVC.
The Golden Eagles set records in 2019, putting up their second-highest total in program history for a single season.
Thornton’s grandfather, Billy Shaw, played guard for the Buffalo Bills and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thornton will try to build on the success Clements had in 2020 where the Rebels led the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards per game behind fantastic performances from Snoop Conner, Jerrion Ealy, and Henry Parrish.