Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn is hoping familiarity breeds success for the Auburn Tigers on offense as he looks to turn things around from one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. While finding the right fit at quarterback will be very important, just as important for Malzahn this offseason was finding the right fit on his coaching staff.
One of those who Malzahn quickly turned to was veteran offensive line Coach Herb Hand. Having already worked with Malzahn while the two were together at Tulsa and remaining very close, Hand has something very important to Malzahn when he was looking for someone to join the staff and that was a vast knowledge of his offense.
“Herb Hand is a guy that I have a lot of trust in with our experiences before,” Malzahn said. “Herb was,our co-OC like I’ve said before, at Tulsa. We kind of combined some things that first year and he’s a guy that our personalities really compliment each other even on game day. He’s definitely a guy I can rely on to help us.
“At the same time, you can probably say that about all of our new offensive coaches. Tim Horton has been with us for four years and Scott Fountain has been with us for four years when I was the OC here for three years was in my room for three years.
“Rhett (Lashlee) played in this offense. Kodi (Burns) played in this offense. We have a very unique group that has a great understanding of what we’re doing.”
One of the biggest question marks moving forward is how involved will Hand in Auburn’s offense in 2016 compared to J.B. Grimes? Because of his experience in helping coordinate the offense alongside Malzahn once before it stands to reason he’ll have more input in what the Tigers do, but that’s still to be determined his head coach said.
“Well first of all, J.B. Grimes is a great offensive line coach,” Malzahn said. “He did a super job for us. Herb, just because I’ve worked with him before, we’ll see how things go through spring."
Something that Hand has already done a good bit of so far this spring is experimenting with guys up front. Trying to find the right five guys across the front means giving them looks at different positions. That has meant Alex Kozan getting reps at center, Jordan Diamond at tackle and others moving around. Malzahn said that's something he expects to continue with his new hire trying to make the line his own heading into his first season.
"One thing you'll see this spring is we will move people around up front, to not only try to develop depth, but to try to find the best position for each guy," Malzahn said. "We'll probably move around this spring up front more than we have the previous three years."
Kozan said the change to a new offensive line coach is going smoothly. "I am thankful for what Coach J.B. Grimes did for our offensive line. He really helped us, but I am also excited for Coach Hand to bring new ideas in. You combine that and get better as a player.
"They are kind of the same guy, not completely the same, but they have got similarities," Kozan added. "They both like to keep it light and tell a joke every now and then, but they are also two very focused guys on their craft and they both like being offensive line coaches...Coach Hand is a great guy. I like what I am seeing from him so far. He makes me want to get better as a player. He makes our offensive line want to get better, too."