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Confirmed: Akina to return to Arizona to coach the secondary

Duane Akina

Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina is returning to Arizona to coach the secondary, a source inside the Wildcats football program told TucsonCitizen.com Sunday night.

Reports of Akina’s hiring had surfaced earlier, including one from Tom Dienhart of the Rivals.com. Look for an official statement from Texas and Arizona on Monday, with Akina likely to be in Tucson on Tuesday morning.

I first heard about this possibility, off the record, last week and my initial reaction was “WOW!”

This is a great, great, great hire for coach Mike Stoops. Did I say great?

A call to Akina has not yet been returned, but I did reach former Arizona All-American safety Tony Bouie, who spent a couple of years playing under Akina.

“Master motivator,” Bouie said of Akina.

“He will get the best out of the guys that he coaches. Without a doubt. Hands down. He is so passionate. Detail-oriented. He obviously knows the position extremely well. He is going to bring a lot of credibility to that position when they are recruiting guys to play DB. …

“He just knows what he’s doing. This is the deal of the century.”

I don’t say the following just because I know Akina from his time at Arizona (1987 to 2000) under Dick Tomey, but I do know this: If I was the head coach of a college football team and needed to fill my coaching staff, I’m first calling Duane Akina to coach the defensive backs.

I think he’s the best secondary coach in the country.

Related: Ex-Cat on Akina: ‘I would chew nails and spit blood for that guy’

Akina was at Arizona under Tomey as the secondary coach from 1987 to 1991, as the offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1995 and, again, as the secondary coach from 1996 to 2000. Akina was set to be the defensive coordinator for John Mackovic at Arizona in 2001, but he left for the Longhorns in the spring.

Akina has coached three winners of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back: Arizona’s Darryll Lewis (1990), and Michael Huff (2005) and Aaron Ross (2006).

The best cornerback he ever had at Arizona (perhaps ever coached) should have won the award in 1998, but Chris McAlister, but Antoine Winfield of Ohio State won it instead.

Other star Akina pupils include Chuck Cecil (for one season at Arizona), Quintin Jammer, Michael Griffin and Earl Thomas at Texas, where he has been since the 2001 season.

Akina will replace Greg Brown, who left to take the defensive coordinator’s position at Colorado.

Akina, 54, also carried the title of “assistant head coach” at Texas under Mack Brown and was the co-defensive coordinator there from 2004-07. There was no immediate word if he would carry an additional title at Arizona.

Akina made $318,509 per year under his Texas contract, according to the USA Today salary database.

The highest paid Arizona assistants last season were Brown and fellow 2010 co-defensive coordinator Tim Kish at $230,000. With Brown’s departure, Stoops has said that Kish will be the sole coordinator in 2011.

Why would Akina leave Texas?

One possible reason is the upheaval on the Longhorns coaching staff after a 5-7 season. Akina might feel “maxed out” at Texas. He might might also view this a return “home” to Tucson.

I’m sure we’ll hear more details in the next couple of days.

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