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December 5, 2012

Price: Malzahn success hinges on spread

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Former Auburn offensive coordinator, and now Tiger head coach Gus Malzahn begins his press conference Tuesday. 12.04.12

By Kevin Price

Auburn announced the hiring of Gus Malzahn Tuesday afternoon, bringing the spread offense and one of its biggest believers back to the Plains.

“This is a homecoming for me, and I look forward to being reunited with the Auburn family,” Malzahn said.

Chizik hired Malzahn as his first offensive coordinator in 2009. A year later, Malzahn and quarterback Cam Newton, the prototype quarterback for the spread offense, led the Tigers to a national championship with a record-setting offense.

Without Newton in 2011, the Auburn offense slipped and the Tigers fell to 8-5. Most of the reason for the offense’s decline was that the Tigers didn’t have a quarterback who could properly run the offense.

Kiehl Frazier was recruited to Auburn by Malzahn. But Frazier, who was a freshman in 2011, never seemed to grasp the spread offense. Clint Moseley and Barrett Trotter were just not cut out for it.

Chizik believed that to win consistently in the SEC he had to dump the spread, and that meant bidding good-bye to Malzahn. Chizik didn’t fire Malzahn, but he certainly wasn’t going to raise a hand to try and stop him from leaving, for what turned out to be Arkansas State.

Perhaps Chizik’s fate was sealed the moment he brought in Scot Loeffler in as offensive coordinator to replace Malzahn. The offense, under Loeffler, looked downright inept most of the season. The Tigers finished 3-9 and winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980.

While the Auburn defense was lousy as well, most of the blame for this past season fell — and rightfully so — squarely on Chizik and Loeffler.

At the time Malzahn left, it appeared he was tucking his wounded pride and heading back home to Arkansas, where he had been revered as a high school coach. It seemed he could have had a much better job than Arkansas State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

But maybe he knew something would open back up on the Plains, and it did as Chizik was fired less than two weeks ago.

Malzahn did what he needed to do as a head coach at Arkansas State to make him a candidate for a step up. His team went 9-3, won the Sun Belt title and earned a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

It appeared that Auburn zeroed in on Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart from the outset of the search. At various times in the past few days, either Malzahn or Smart was the leading candidate, according to published reports.

Much like the hire of Chizik, there are doubters about Malzahn and the spread offense. There is still a question of whether it can win long-term in the SEC. The answer to that question will determine whether this a happy homecoming or not.

Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com.


  1. Yes, but what kind of defense does he plan to run? What kind of defense was it at Ark St? Was it a 3-4 or a 4-3?

    Comment by tptoomers — December 5, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  2. To me the success will lie in the foundation he sets for the program over the next months. To do this, I believe he has to:
    — Assemble a coaching staff to go with his philosophy, not Pat Dye or other meddlers in the program. We’ve seen Coach Tuberville have Tony Franklin forced on him, and Gus must make those decisions himself. And make excellent ones.

    — Have a killer recruiting class to match his philosophy. We need receivers, linebackers, and especially running backs. Can Gus get his staff in place in time to fill the tool chest? And how many players do we lose in the transfer?

    — Make the right decision on Trooper. It seems Trooper is the guy for all the recruits. Will they leave if he does? I always thought Trooper and Gus were in synch, but I really don’t know. Our receivers have to get better for sure.

    — Get a QB in place. QB was Auburn’s downfall this year, and them sticking with Frazier was a huge mistake. Wallace should have been in place all year. Will he fit in Gus’ offense? Is recruit Jeremy Johnson a Gus-QB? Do we need to get a JC or transfer?

    — Watch an athletic director come in and take the program to new heights with accountability and creative marketing. Scott Etheridge is the guy to do that.

    Comment by el carg — December 5, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  3. Gus does not run a traditional SPREAD offense. I am not sure why that is so hard for so many people to understand. His offense is a run/option/wing hybrid.. Yes, it uses spread principles, but it also uses formations out of the I and wishbone…simply putting the QB in the shotgun or pistol to facilitate the play

    Comment by Levin — December 5, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  4. Wallace will share time with the Carver qb, Both fit Guss’s offense.

    The Carver boy is bigger, built more like Cam was built

    Comment by wt — December 5, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  5. Kevin, Mr Alabama writing about Auburn

    Comment by wt — December 5, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  6. He said he wants a defensive coordinator that uses multiple sets, mixing 4-3 and 3-4. He also said his defense will attack the offense. He said it’s the only way to deal with present-day, multiple set offenses.

    Comment by Richard Hale — December 5, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  7. Best worry about Florida spanking Geiorgia yearly than what Auburn is doing. Florida was chosen over SEC runner up Goergia as a BCS bowl participant.

    Comment by wt — December 6, 2012 @ 8:35 am

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