Malzahn Named UA Offensive Coordinator

FAYETTEVILLE -- The burden of hiring an offensive coordinator finally lifted, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt found time to joke about the criticism of his play calling Friday afternoon.

"You all have given me some critique on calling plays, and now Gus (Malzahn) will get to have the same thing," Nutt said.

Less than a week after coaching Springdale to a Class AAAAA state championship, Malzahn was named the Razorbacks offensive coordinator.

Malzahn's contract has not been finalized and will have to be approved by the Board of Trustees at its next meeting. It wasn't immediately clear when that meeting would take place. Reggie Herring, who was hired as the Razorbacks' defensive coordinator a year ago, makes $300,000.

Working at Arkansas had been a long-time goal of Malzahn's. Several years ago, Malzahn met Nutt outside of Nutt's office, letting him know that he was interested in a college coaching position.

"It definitely is a dream of mine because I love the Razorbacks so much and now I have direct influence on whether they're successful or not," Malzahn said. "I know the players coming back and it just excites me to see those guys who are coming back."

Nutt nearly hired Malzahn three years ago when the position of quarterbacks coach opened.

"The timing wasn't right," Nutt said. "This isn't just an overnight deal. It's not a flash in the pan. It's not a ploy. We went to get a good football coach, the best football coach."

Although Malzahn said, "I work for Houston Nutt," there was little doubt that Malzahn would be calling the plays.

"I like the fact that I'm going to be able to call plays and have influence over the offense and that's important to me," Malzahn said. "I'm the offensive coordinator. The responsibility's on me."

He will likely handle play-calling duties from the sidelines, although Malzahn said that would depend on other staff additions.

In addition to his offensive coordinator duties, Malzahn will serve as either the quarterbacks or wide receivers coach.

Arkansas fans have been clamoring for a more wide open, pass-oriented offense, expressing those wishes with loud cheers on deep pass plays --even the ones that weren't completed --throughout the season.

"I'm not real good at a lot of things, but the Lord's blessed me with a talent to recognize defenses and to be able to call plays," Malzahn said.

The author of "The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy", intends to waste little time implementing the offense that's been his trademark through high school stops at Hughes, Shiloh Christian and Springdale.

"I am what I am," Malzahn said. "We will run the hurry up at times and go from there."

Arkansas was next to last in the SEC in passing offense last year, while leading the conference in rushing. While saying the Razorbacks would adopt his offense, he also pledged not to abandon the running game.

The transition won't take long, Malzahn said.

"I really feel like there's some special times ahead next year on the offensive side," Malzahn said. "Coach (James) Shibest, with the receivers he's got ready, it will be a short period of time where we'll get that thing going and our guys will be able to execute the passing game."

Malzahn, 40, said he won't shy away from the pressure that the high-profile job brings.

"I thrive on pressure; I'm at my best under pressure," Malzahn said. "I'm ready to hit the ground running and get to work."

He met with his Springdale players Friday morning but had yet to meet with the rest of the Razorbacks coaching staff or the Arkansas players.

Despite back-to-back losing seasons, athletic director Frank Broyles said he was as optimistic as he's ever been about the state of the program.

"I'm as excited as I have been in 30 years about our program," Broyles said. "I think we have a chance to do some positive things in the very near future."

While Nutt acknowledged Malzahn's hiring would free him up to do other things, he shied away from being labeled a "CEO" coach.

"I don't consider myself a CEO because I'm not going to be in the tower," Nutt said. "I'm not going to have a golf cart driving around. I don't believe in that. I'm going to be hands on and I'm going to be coaching more than ever, whether it be punt return or kickoff return, helping Shibest more. I'm going to be able to bounce around and be able to go to the defense and watch them and encourage those guys."

Obligations to his Springdale team kept Malzahn from being named earlier in the week, he said. Malzahn was in New York, along with quarterback and highly touted recruit Mitch Mustain earlier in the week. If he'd been named earlier, his contact with Mustain would have been limited by NCAA regulations.

"I feel bad for (Nutt) because we started this thing Sunday night and probably would have had a good chance of finishing this thing earlier in the week," Malzahn said. "I know he's taken a lot of heat and that's probably not fair."

One of his first jobs as a college coach is expected to be going to work on recruiting, including the "Springdale 5" --all of whom committed to schools before the season. Andrew Norman said Thursday that he remained fully committed to Arkansas. Three others --Ben Cleveland (Florida), Bartley Webb (Notre Dame) and Damian Williams (Florida) remain committed elsewhere. The other, Mustain, recently "reopened" his recruitment process after initially committing to Arkansas.

While not specifically addressing his now former Springdale players, Malzahn said he would hit the recruiting trail right away.

"I work for the University of Arkansas and I'm going to do everything in my power to recruit the kind of kids that will help us be successful on Saturdays," Malzahn said.

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