In a bit of a surprise move, former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is returning to the Plains as the school’s new head coach. On Tuesday the school announced that Malzahn- who spent the last season as head coach at Arkansas State- will take over for his former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired after the Tigers finished 3-9 last season.
The school will welcome Malzahn in a Tuesday night press conference. In a statement, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs had this to say about the hire:
"We are tremendously excited that Gus Malzahn will be our next head football coach. Coach Malzahn was the clear unanimous choice of our search committee, and I am pleased that Dr. (Jay) Gogue has accepted our recommendation. This is a great day for Auburn football and Auburn University."
The news came as a bit of a surprise, if only because Malzahn’s name didn’t appear to be at the top of Auburn’s original list. When Chizik was fired two weeks ago, most assumed that Jacobs and the Tigers’ administration would zero in on former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino or current Louisville head man Charlie Strong to be their next coach. However, recent reports eventually revealed that the decision came down to Malzahn and current Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, before Jacobs made the call on Malzahn.
However if the move was a bit surprising, it certainly wasn’t disappointing to Auburn fans. The Tigers know what they’re getting from Malzahn, a man who was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011 and also won the Frank Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach in 2010. From the moment Malzahn stepped onto the college football scene seven seasons ago, his fast-paced spread offensive attack has seemingly worked at every stop he’s been at. Malzahn has essentially had college football’s Midas touch.
In Malzahn’s first year as offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006, the Razorbacks went 10-4 and won the SEC West, and he later parlayed that job into two successful years at Tulsa where the Golden Hurricane led college football in total offense each season he was at the school.
The following season Malzahn came to Auburn and took a rag-tag group and turned them into an offense that went from averaging a meager 17.3 points per game, to one which put up over 33 in 2009. The following year Auburn won a National Championship with Cam Newton leading the charge on offense and after a disappointing 2011 season (where Auburn ranked 100th nationally in total offense) Malzahn became Arkansas State’s head coach this fall. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record in his only season at the school.
Now the question becomes whether Malzahn can put together another offensive reclamation project on the Plains.
Auburn is coming off what is undoubtedly one of their worst seasons in program history, in a year where they finished 3-9 overall and without a win in SEC play.
In the process, Auburn also tried to switch from Malzahn’s spread attack to a new pro-style offense under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. It’s safe to say the decision turned into an unmitigated disaster. Auburn finished 2012 averaging just 18.3 points per game.
Clearly Malzahn has his work cut out for him when he takes over at Auburn next year.
However, if there’s one man who can implement a quick fix, it appears to be him.
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