Avengers hire four assistant coaches
LOS ANGELES -- Pat O'Hara, the new head coach of the Los Angeles Avengers, has hired four assistant coaches in preparation for the upcoming 2009 Arena Football League season.
Maurice Blanding will be the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Chad Salisbury will work with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Leroy Thompson will coach the defensive linemen and linebackers, in addition to serving as special teams coordinator. Mark Tucker will work with the offensive linemen and fullbacks.
The five members of L.A.'s coaching staff combine for 54 seasons of Arena Football experience, have played or coached in 12 ArenaBowls and own five AFL championship rings.
"Building our coaching staff is the first step toward the ArenaBowl and now we can place our full attention on player personnel," said O'Hara, who was hired by the Avengers on July 25. "All four of these coaches bring a wealth of AFL experience to our team. Each one of them has a clear understanding of what it takes to be an effective player in this league. Not only will we rely on their knowledge to make personnel decisions, we also believe that all those years in the league will serve them well in relating to our players both on and off the field."
Blanding spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Brigade. Last season, his unit ranked second in the AFL in pass defense, allowing just 252.2 yards per game through the air. In addition, the 2008 Brigade finished third in interceptions (3.8 per 100 pass attempts, 20-of-522), third in fourth-down defensive efficiency (48.1 percent, 13-of-27) and fifth in total defense (284.3 yards per game). Prior to joining the Brigade, Blanding was the wide receiver/defensive back coach and special teams coordinator for the Georgia Force for two seasons. In his first season with Georgia in 2005, he helped the Force advance all the way to ArenaBowl XIX. Blanding joined the AFL coaching ranks in 2003 with the Carolina Cobras where he spent two seasons as the defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator. He began his coaching career in 2002 with the Augusta Stallions of arenafootball2 (the developmental league established by the AFL in 1999), working with the defensive backs and special teams units. A year earlier, Blanding was a defensive specialist with the Stallions and led the team with 70.5 tackles and six interceptions.
Salisbury spent eight seasons as an AFL quarterback with five different teams. He began with the New England Sea Wolves in 2000, and then moved on to the Toronto Phantoms for two seasons (2001-02), where he played alongside O'Hara. Salisbury spent the next two seasons with the Chicago Rush (2003-04), followed by one with the Columbus Destroyers (2005) and two with the Grand Rapids Rampage (2006-07). While with the Rampage, he was 501-of-819 for 5,483 yards and 108 touchdowns. Over the course of his entire AFL career, Salisbury played in 70 games, completed 1,051-of-1,683 (62.4 percent) for 11,981 yards and 215 touchdowns. While playing for Grand Rapids, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Byron Center (Mich.) High School. Salisbury is currently in his third year on the Bulldog staff and also serves as the school's assistant athletic director.
Thompson recently completed a 13-year career as a fullback/linebacker in the AFL. Over the course of 150 regular-season games, he ran for 1,114 yards and 68 touchdowns on 383 carries, and also caught five touchdown passes. Thompson is one of only six players in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. He also finished his AFL career with 163.5 total tackles, including 14.5 quarterback sacks, and six fumbles. After signing with the Albany Firebirds in 1996, he spent the next nine seasons with the Firebird franchise, which relocated to Indiana in 2001. In 2002, Thompson was selected as the AFL's "Built Ford Tough Man of the Year," after finishing the season with 117 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 24 tackles and five quarterback sacks. He played one season for the New Orleans VooDoo in 2005, before spending the past three years with the Columbus Destroyers. Thompson was a member of the 1999 Albany Firebirds team that captured ArenaBowl XIII with a 59-48 victory over the Orlando Predators. He also played in ArenaBowl XXI for Columbus in 2007.
Tucker was the Arizona Rattlers' offensive line coach in 2007. Prior to accepting his first coaching job in professional football, he was an offensive/defensive lineman with the Rattlers for 10 seasons (1997-2006). In Tucker's first season in Arizona, the Rattlers won ArenaBowl XI with a 55-33 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. He went on to play in three more ArenaBowls (XVI, XVII and XVIII). While playing for the Rattlers, Tucker started his coaching career as the offensive line coach at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., and is now in his ninth season with the Huskies, who have won three 5A state championships since 2003. After graduating from Banning High School (Wilmington, Calif.) and University of Southern California, where he was a four-year starter at offensive guard, Tucker was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round of the 1991 NFL Draft. In 1992, he played one season overseas with the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American Football (the predecessor of NFL Europe). Tucker went on to spend two seasons in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (1993-94). In 1994, he played in all 16 games for the Cardinals, starting three times at right guard. While at USC, Tucker and O'Hara were teammates for four years (1987-90).
Season ticket packages for the 10th season of Los Angeles Avengers football, which include nine games played at STAPLES Center, are on sale now at 1-888-AVENGERS or www.laavengers.com.
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