It was on the day that Arkansas came to Auburn and defeated the second-ranked Tigers that Malzahn said his affinity for Auburn started. When coach Gene Chizik came calling over the Christmas holidays, Malzahn said he knew it was time.
"There are certain places that you go away from and say, ‘man that's an awesome place,'" Malzahn said. "We actually won the football game that day, but the crowd was different. They were classy. The atmosphere was second to none. I went away from this place and talked with my wife and she said the same thing. I just knew it was something special.
"It probably took about an hour," he added. "It was something that was kind of in our minds. As a coach you kind of look for places that you think you would be a good fit. This was one of those places that three years ago when I came through I was very impressed with. That's why I'm tickled to death to be here."
Before he moves to his new job at Auburn full-time though he's got some business to attend to with his 2008 Tusla team. That means a date against Ball State in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 6.
Malzahn said he just felt like coaching in the bowl was the right thing to do and he hopes it shows the players in Alabama what to expect from the Auburn offense down the road.
"Coach (Todd) Graham was great to me at Tulsa and I really feel like it's important to me to finish with those players," Malzahn said. "I'm extremely close to my players. I always have been. I'm going to do everything in my power to help Tulsa win that bowl game.
"At the same time I believe that Auburn's recruits can get a visual of exactly what they're going to see next year on the field."
In addition to his feelings for Auburn, Malzahn said that another one of the reasons he feels good about his new job is because of Chizik. Getting a feel for him and his style of coaching, Malzahn said he's firmly convinced Chizik will get the job done for the Tigers.
"His background may be defense, but Coach knows football," Malzahn said. "Each situation is different and this situation was ideal for me. It's just an opportunity to represent the university is real important. When you look at it from an offensive coordinator standpoint this is one of those dream jobs and dream fits for me personally. A lot of things go into that."
Malzahn is the first piece of the puzzle for Chizik on offense. The head coach said he'll continue to work on building a staff along with Malzahn's help and suggestions. For Malzahn that is something he believes is huge for the direction of the offense.
"I think it's really important anytime you can get in on the front end," Malzahn said. "You can actually establish your plan and build it like you need to build it to be successful. I think that's very important."
When he moves to Auburn after the bowl, Malzahn will see two very familiar faces greeting him at the door. Both Kodi Burns and Lee Ziemba are from Arkansas and were recruited by Malzahn when he was on Houston Nutt's staff. He said both are good players and he looks forward to working with them in the future.
"I actually recruited those two young men while I was at Arkansas," Malzahn said. "When I was at Springdale High School I played against them. I'm very familiar with those two guys. I know their families well. They are two very good football players. Kodi called me and I had a chance to visit with him. I'm in the process of talking with the other quarterbacks too."
Using a lot of motion and misdirection in his offensive gameplans, Malzahn is thought of as a spread guy, but he notes that his offense is a hurry-up/no-huddle, but it's anything but a typical spread offense.
"You've got to be balanced and you've got to take what the defense gives you," Malzahn said. "Obviously, you've got to be able to run the football. We're a run, play-action team. You won't see a lot of just straight drop-back passes. That's not who we're going to be.
"We're going to run downhill. We're going to have a physical, hard-nosed approach. I'm not talking about just the offensive line and the backs, but also the receivers and quarterback. I think that's very important to establish that early."
With plenty of experienced players returning on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers, Malzahn said the pieces are in place for Auburn's offense to get things going right away. In fact he said that's the goal for his first team and he'll let them know that right away when he arrives on Jan. 7.
"When I first get a chance to address them as a group we will definitely put up exactly who we are," Malzahn said. "We will put up our goals. I'm into explaining everything we're going to do. We'll go to work hard. I do understand they went through a lot. We'll have a good sound plan and extremely high goals. I think that's very important. We're going to achieve them. We're going to achieve them in a hurry."