Auburn, Ala.--Even before the season opener against Clemson, Coach Gus Malzahn said he knew something had to change.
Trying to be the head coach and offensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers was something he was able to do his first two three seasons back on the Plains, but it had taken its toll on the guy who hangs his hat on being able to score points in bunches.
“When you've been coaching a long time, when you've been doing something for 25 years, that's what you're used to doing,” Malzahn said. “That was really my plan in the offseason, was to be more involved like I talked about. Sometimes reality hits you.
“In this day and time in this league, to be the head coach and call an offense is not realistic, at least for me. It hit me after that first game. What's best for our team, 100 percent is what's best. We've got very good offensive coaches that will definitely do a great job with that, I believe. I think we'll get nothing but better.”
It wasn’t just about the offense not living up to its potential that had Malzahn rethinking his decision to take a step back. Trying to handle the day-to-day operations of the job, watch film, prepare a gameplan and everything else associated with the job had put a strain on him, something Malzahn said he felt immediately change against LSU.
“I felt like I was too negative the first couple of games,” he said. “That’s probably the best thing way to put it. I was living and dying with every play. It was real refreshing for me to be on the opposite end of that, where you don’t live and die with every play. You can kind of look ahead and see the big picture. That’s probably the best way to put that.
“For me during the game it was very refreshing from the standpoint that I could be there for the special teams, the defense,” Malzahn added. “I wasn't caught up in the next play. It will definitely help me. It will help me during the week, too, to be there more for our players, which is really the most important thing. That's how it got to where it's at.”
It wasn’t only noticeable to Malzahn, but senior defensive back Rudy Ford could see a difference in his head coach as well and said he believes it’s something that will help the team moving forward this season.
“He was more calm, more relaxed,” Ford pointed out. “He just let us have more fun. He came in energized throughout the whole week. He told some jokes on the screen, played music. He just had us all relaxed and let us go play ball.
“It helps us a whole lot," the senior added. "We feed off our head coach. That was just big for us. He got us ready for the whole week. He prepared us. He was excited. We were excited.”
Now with a decision behind him that Malzahn said was totally his call, the Tigers will focus on improving this week as they take on Louisiana-Monroe. Will still plenty left to play for the once again CEO of the program said he’s excited to see what the future holds for Auburn football in 2016.
“It finally got to a point that this is what's best for our team,” he said. “This day and time and in this league, I just don't think it's realistic. That's what hit me and that's how we got to this point. I feel very good about moving forward with where we're at.
“We've got the potential to grow a lot on offense. These guys have been with me a long time and I've got confidence in them. We've just got to solve our red zone issues. That's our No. 1 focus right now. We're going to spend more time in practice. We're going to evaluate the whole deal in the red zone. If we can solve that, we can be a pretty good offense.”