"If you're talking big picture as far as moving forward, we've got a lot of our main players coming back," Malzahn said. "We feel very good about our overall program and where we're going and really feel like our best days are ahead of us."
Much of the reason for that excitement out of Malzahn is because for the first time since he began coaching college football in 2006 he'll have the same quarterback for the second season in a row. Not since his high school days has Malzahn coached a quarterback for more than one year. He'll finally have that chance with the ultra-talented but still very raw Nick Marshall.
"We're very excited about the spring with Nick," Malzahn said. "We got a lot of information throughout the season, and we'll really go back and build around his strengths even more. What he did in one year, not going through spring and not winning the job until two weeks before the season, was phenomenal.
"I don't know if there's ever been a situation similar to that. I really think that his upside is very high. He's a natural leader. His teammates have a lot of respect for him, as well as coaches do. This'll be the first time that we've actually had a quarterback come back after one year, so we're pretty excited about that."
Marshall takes off for a touchdown run against Alabama
Jumping into the battle for the starting quarterback job with just a few weeks of the summer to get acquainted with Malzahn's offense, Marshall never looked back after being named the man for the Tigers. Starting 13 games and battling through both a sprained knee and sprained shoulder, the former Georgia defensive back completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,976 yards and and 14 touchdowns with just six interceptions. When you add in his 1,068 yards and 12 scores on the ground you have a huge season for Marshall.
With plenty of knowledge on what Marshall can do in this offense, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will now have the chance to expand things beginning in the spring. With Tre Mason heading to the NFL along with fullback Jay Prosch, Auburn could open things up much more in 2014, but the goal will always be to remain physical in the running game and try to keep the defense off balance.
"We'll see where we're at with the talent around him," Malzahn said. "We could be more balanced, but at the same time we're going to play to our strengths. We really feel like we can be effective in the passing game.
"He throws the ball well," Malzahn added of Marshall. "I think the big thing is just getting the timing down with him and his receivers. And then just giving him probably a little more freedom now that he'll know the offense even better, because week to week, you've got to gameplan. It was good for him having that 30 days (bowl practices). I think you could see that in the passing game and all that. We're looking forward to spring."