Gene Chizik said he liked what he saw, calling it one of the best practices of the season. The head coach said that he expects the regular quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, will be back on Thursday.
Malzahn is in Jonesboro, Ark., where he was introduced as Arkansas State's new head coach on Wednesday afternoon.
"We are very happy for him and his family," Chizik said of Malzahn, who has spent three seasons coaching at Auburn. "It was a really good situation, a very good opportunity for him to go back to his home state where he knows so many high schools and he has so many connections."
Malzahn will split duties the rest of the month preparing the Tigers for their bowl game on New Year's Eve while also organizing his staff at ASU.
"He has done great things for us at Auburn," Chizik said. "He helped us win the national championship. He has been a part of 29 wins and he has really done a great job for us."
Chizik said that he "has a great relationship" with his offensive coordinator and is pleased that Malzahn wants to coach the team in the bowl game. "I didn't have to beg him--he really, really wanted to stay, which is a great thing. He loves Auburn and he loves the players here. He was very adamant about wanting to coach in the bowl game, which was great.
"He is a great friend, and he will be a great head coach, too," Chizik added. "We wish him well."
Chizik said losing coordinators and assistant coaches is part of the business in college football. "The bottom line is, when you have won a national championship and have had a lot of success, people are going to have other opportunities," he said.
"This is a situation where I feel very confident we are going to hire some great people here just like we did previously--great coaches and great people," Chizik said. "They will be great fits for Auburn."
Chizik joked that his main criteria for an offensive coordinator is a guy whose teams score a lot of points. He said that he wants a coach who fits in well with the players, is great as a coordinator and is a great recruiter.
"What that means is Xs and Os-wise can vary and change," he said, noting the Tigers don't have a "one-track mind" on the type of offense or defense they have to run. "We want guys who are very good at what they do and are great fits for Auburn."
Chizik said the coaching staff has been on the telephone talking to recruits about Malzahn leaving. He said the response has been "great."
"You have to call all of your guys and say, ‘Hey, look, this is what happens in college football and we feel very, very confident in moving forward in what our plan is and where we are headed.' There is no panic whatsoever on our side. You can look around. There are coordinators taking jobs at a lot of places. Everybody faces the same things.
In other news and notes:
*The Tigers will return to the practice field on Thursday morning and that will give assistant coaches time to hit the road recruiting prior to the Friday evening practice. "We had a great practice tonight," Chizik said. "It might have been one of the best ones we have had."
*Quarterback coach Clint Moseley said that he expects the Tigers will put forth a big effort in the bowl game to send Malzahn out a winner. He said that he is disappointed to lose his position coach, but happy that Malzahn achieved his goal of becoming a college head football coach.
*Prior to the practice, the Tigers had a team meeting about Malzahn's departure. "Everybody understands," Chizik said. "These guys are 18, 19, 20 and 21 years old. They understand when people have to make moves they think are best for their family...I think everybody is happy for him."
*Auburn still has tickets available for the Chick-fil-A Bowl at $80 apiece. The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CST on New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the same spot where Auburn will open the 2012 season vs. Clemson on either Thursday, August 30th, August 31st or September 1st.
*Auburn's defensive linemen will be facing an outstanding Virginia lineman in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Senior offensive guard Austin Pasztor was named to the Associated Press All-America team on Wednesday. The Canadian did not allow a sack this season and graded 92 percent.