StatTiger: Malzahn's History Of Success

Columnist Stuart Carter gives his views on the return of Gus Malzahn to Auburn in his new role as head coach of the football Tigers.

On December 4, 2012 Gus Malzahn was named Auburn's 26th head football coach, 355 days after he left Auburn to become the head coach at Arkansas State. One of the mad scientists of offensive football is back on the Plains, hoping to rejuvenate life back into a program that was at the top of the college football world just two seasons ago.

Next season Malzahn will enter his 23rd year as a football coach and his eighth season as a collegiate coach. He is a man who has been successful at every coaching stop he has made.

Every program Malzahn has been affiliated with has been in position to win a championship and his offensive philosophy places him on the cutting edge of spread offenses across the nation.

During his 15 years as a high school coach Malzahn took all three programs he was associated with to state championship games, winning at least one at two different programs. His success as a high school coach in the state of Arkansas paved the way to his collegiate career, beginning at the University of Arkansas.

During his one season with the Razorbacks they won the SEC West before he moved on to the University of Tulsa. Malzahn spent two years with the Golden Hurricanes, which included trips to the Conference USA championship game both seasons. He returned to the Southeastern Conference as Auburn's offensive coordinator, where he was a major contributor to the Tigers' 2010 conference championship and BCS national title.

Auburn posted a 30-10 record with Malzahn's dynamic offense leading the way, resulting in his first head coaching gig at Arkansas State for the 2012 season. During his one year with the Red Wolves, Malzahn directed a team that returned only 10 starters to a league championship in the Sun Belt Conference.

The coach built his reputation on his explosive offense, but the key to his overall success has been his drive and commitment to win. He demands the most from his players, is well organized and is focused on fundamentals.

His return to Auburn as the head coach offers another opportunity for Malzahn to add to his accomplishments and to reconstruct the football program to fit his personal vision of how the game should be played, not to mention setting the stage for another assault on the offensive record books.

Auburn fans know what to expect on the offensive side of the football with Malzahn because of his three-year stint as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. During his 94 collegiate games Malzahn's offense has averaged 224 yards rushing and 240 yards passing per contest. His offensive averages include 36 points per game and 6.58 yards gained per offensive snap.

Since 2000 Southeastern Conference offenses have averaged 159 yards rushing per game and Malzahn's offense has met or exceeded that average in 71 percent of the games he has called on offense.

The average pass rating in the Southeastern Conference during the same time period is 129.0 and Malzahn's offense has met or exceeded that average 71 percent of the time.

The new Auburn head coach's offense is built around the performance of his quarterbacks and a strong running game. The overall pass rating of his college teams is an impressive 153.2 and those teams won 61 games and lost just six times when exceeding a pass rating of 129.0.

Even in the games his offense failed to reach a pass rating of 129, it averaged 186 yards on the ground. His offenses at the collegiate level included at least one 1,000-yard rusher during all seven seasons and a total of nine overall.

Malzahn's offenses at the collegiate level have averaged 127.8 impact plays per season (plays of 15 yards or more.) This factors out to 9.5 impact plays per game, which includes a record of 54-9 when producing at least eight of those plays during a game.

Malzahn is considered one of the brightest minds in college football when it comes to offense. Just as football fans will associate Alabama with Nick Saban's defense or Chip Kelly with Oregon's offense, they will associate Auburn with Malzahn's offense.

As a coach all Malzahn has done is win at every stop he has made. He possesses all the essential traits required to be successful in his profession. He is innovative, driven and committed to flourish as a head coach. Though there are no guarantees he will win championships at Auburn, his track record as a coach makes it highly probable.

Gus Malzahn is shown during his time as Auburn's offensive coordinator.

Malzahn certainly has his work cut out for him as he takes on the task of revamping a proud football program that fell on difficult times during the 2012 season. He will do so not with visions of Auburn's past accomplishments, but with visions of making his own history.

Malzahn is a coach who is extremely confident in his offensive system and his attention to the details has been the key to a successful coaching career.

Despite having only nine combined returning starters on offense and defense, he directed Arkansas State to a 9-3 record and a Sun Belt conference championship. Moving up to the Southeastern Conference will obviously be formidable challenge, but Malzahn has never been one to back away from a major challenge.

Since arriving at Auburn, the coach has met with his players, placing a strong emphasis on his senior class. He intends to install a senior leadership program, which should help inspire team leadership among the players, something that has been lacking the past two seasons.

Malzahn has made wholesale changes to the coaching staff with the goal of having all of the coaches on the same page, working towards the same objectives and goals. He wants his coordinators to have an input on their assistants to be hired, which should create a strong working environment.

Two of the last three head coaches Malzahn worked under have been terminated, which some might see as a concern in terms of his coaching development at the collegiate level. In this particular case I believe Malzahn was able to retain some of the positive aspects he obtained from his former head coaches but, more importantly, he was able to recognize their mistakes and won't repeat them as a head coach.

We often learn more from our mistakes than our triumphs, which means he is likely to be more prepared by witnessing the mistakes made by his predecessor. He certainly has the fortitude to implement his plan for the Tigers, but the key to his success will be his ability to adjust his plan, something Gene Chizik failed to do.


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