Malzahn Wants Bowl Win for AU Family, Players

Gus Malzahn returned to the Auburn practice field to resume bowl preparations and talks about his feelings for his players, Gene Chizik and the Auburn Family.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said the last 48 hours have probably been the busiest of his life as he has juggled his new duties as head coach at Arkansas State with his assignment as offensive coordinator and coach of the quarterbacks at Auburn.

On Friday night the coach was back at Auburn directing the offense as the Tigers continued their preparations for the Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup vs. Virginia.

Malzahn said it was a good practice, and an emotional one for him because it was the first time he had a chance to talk to the players as a group after he made a decision on Tuesday night to accept an offer from Arkansas State to take over as head coach of the Red Wolves.

"The thing about college football is things happen so quick," Malzahn said. "I made a decision to take the job late the other (Tuesday) night. I called a couple (players) on the phone, but it was the first time to get in front of them and it was very emotional for me. I get very close to my players.

"I just told the guys my decision, and how it came about, and I love them and appreciate them, and we are going to finish this thing the right way."

Malzahn said he appreciates Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who he called a "friend and mentor," allowing him the opportunity to coach the Tigers in the bowl game because it is something he really wants to do.

Commenting on why that is important to him, Malzahn said, "First of all the experience here at Auburn has been a great experience for me and my family. It is three of the best years of our life being part of the Auburn family and being able to coach these kids.

"I just really want us to go out on a high note and try to win that eighth game," he said. "I am very close to our players and I just feel like it is the right thing to do. I am very happy that Coach Chizik allowed me to do that."

Malzahn added, "It is a very exciting time and I feel blessed to have this opportunity."

Friday evening's workout was Auburn's fifth in preparation for playing the Cavaliers. Malzahn missed the previous two attending to duties in Jonesboro, Ark. The coach said he liked what he saw on his return.

"It was a good practice," he said. "Our guys had a lot of energy. We started installing some game plan stuff and I?think our kids were really excited. We really had an overall spirited, good practice."

Malzahn said that Auburn is "a hard place to leave" even though for the past year and a half he has developed an urge to become a head coach at the college level. "It (Arkansas State) was definitely the right place at the right time, but it was hard to leave these kids because I?am extremely close to our coaching staff.

"It was tough to leave, but at the same time I am very excited to be a head coach at this level and to be head coach at Arkansas State," Malzahn stated.

Malzahn said his goal is to do the best job he possibly can for his Auburn players through the bowl game, which will be played on New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "I want to do it for the Auburn Family, too," he said. "It is one of the best experiences of my life to be here and I really want to go out and send our guys out on a positive note. I am going to do everything in my power to do that."

In other news and notes:

*Following practice on Friday evening, the Tigers held their annual team banquet for the players and coaches at the Auburn Arena.

*Tickets are still available from Auburn's allotment of 17,000 seats for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The AU Ticket Office will be open through Wednesday and will be open again from Dec. 28-30th.

*The Tigers will practice again on Saturday while also entertaining prospects on official visits. The team will take the day off on Sunday and practice three more days next week before taking a break for the holidays. The Tigers will reassemble in Atlanta on Christmas night and resume practices for their New Year's Eve game vs. Virginia on Sunday.

*Malzahn's wife, Kristy, has received unwanted attention in recent weeks as the subject of an internet video that was edited to try to make her look bad prior to this year's Auburn-Alabama game. Scenes were taken from a TV interview she had done this fall in Arkansas.

There has been speculation that hurt the coach's chances of landing the vacant head coaching jobs he was in the mix for at North Carolina and Kansas.

"Any time you are in the public eye a lot of things can happen," he said. "Kristy has been a great coach's wife and I would not be where I am at today (without her). I am behind her 100 percent. She is behind me 100 percent. We are a team."

*Kris Frost said he is excited about bowl practice restarting in Atlanta after Christmas because he will be able to have contact then. Preseason shoulder surgery forced a redshirt year for the high school All-American from North Carolina. "My shoulder is feeling really good," said Frost, who credited Dr. James Andrews with doing a good job with the surgery.

*Another true freshman, 6-6, 305 offensive tackle Greg Robinson, said on Friday night that he didn't originally want to redshirt this season, but the coaches told him he needed to do it.

Robinson noted that in hindsight it was a good decision because he improved significantly from August to December and will be better equipped to challenge for a starting job at left tackle in 2012.

*At Friday night's team banquet, the following players received awards voted on by the players:

Offensive MVP—Emory Blake
Defensive MVP—Neiko Thorpe
Special Teams MVP—Steven Clark
Team MVP—Philip Lutzenkirchen

*These players received awards voted on by the coaching staff at the team banquet:

Awards Voted on by Coaches Special Teams Points Leader—Cody Parkey
Outstanding Offensive Newcomer—Reese Dismukes
Outstanding Defensive Newcomer—Jermaine Whitehead
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year—Corey Grant
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year—Daniel Pond
Academic Eye of the Tiger—Eltoro Freeman
Strength and Conditioning MVP—Jared Cooper, Corey Grant

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