Magic-man Malzahn

Auburn's hiring of Gene Chizik as head coach may have been puzzling, but Chizik's subsequent hiring of Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator was not.

Malzahn appears to be on the fast track to stardom after two dazzling years as offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Under his guidance the Golden Hurricane led the entire Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Div. 1-A) in total offense at 543.9 yards per game in 2007. Then, to prove it was no fluke, his troops were even more offensive in 2008 - again leading the NCAA in total offense (569.9 yards per game) and ranking second in scoring (47.2 points per game).

Malzahn's work is cut out for him this season because he inherited an attack that last fall ranked 10th among the 12 SEC teams in scoring (17.3 points per game), 10th in passing (165.4 yards per game) and eighth in total offense (302.9 yards per game). Still, his track record suggests he'll have the Tigers roaring pretty soon.

"The first impression's been great," tight end Tommy Trott said. "He's a football nut ... football 24/7. He's brought a successful offense here, and hopefully things will work well."

Since Chizik is known as a defensive specialist, you wonder how he will co-exist with an offensive mastermind like Malzahn. Chizik says they'll do just fine, thank you.

"When Gus and I talked about coming to Auburn, I wanted to make sure philosophically we were on the same page," Chizik said at the recent SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "Being a (former) defensive coordinator in this league and having a great grasp in this league of what wins and what doesn't, I feel very strongly in the efforts of running the football."

For all of the passing yards Malzahn's offenses historically put up, they are just as productive running the ball. Last year's Tulsa attack, for instance, ranked higher nationally in rushing yards (fifth at 268.0) than in passing yards (ninth at 301.9).

The fact Malzahn runs a Spread offense is richly ironic, since Auburn's 2008 season was a 5-7 debacle because the Tigers couldn't score points running Tony Franklin's version of the Spread.

Replacing one Spread guru with another Spread guru seems redundant but Chizik insists that it isn't.

"I get asked all the time about The Spread offense," he said. "My question back to the people who ask me about The Spread offense is, 'Please tell me what kind of spread offense you're talking about because there's so many different variations of what people want to call The Spread.'"

Before allowing Malzahn to install his variation of The Spread, Chizik made certain it would emphasize the principles he holds dear.

"We talked about philosophically what we want to do," the head man said. "We want to run the football, but we also want to be able to have a very balanced passing attack, too. Everybody wants to have a balanced attack. There are very few teams out there that throw it all the time or run it all the time. If you go back and look at the record, Gus has had a great, great record of being able to be balanced and productive both running and throwing."

Chizik was especially impressed with the success of Malzahn's ground attack during his two-year stint with the Golden Hurricane.

"I believe last year they averaged 270 yards rushing a game," Chizik said. "Unless you're an option football team, that's really hard to do....

"So we're on the same page. We know what we want to do. We want to create a physical brand of football, which over the years is what Auburn was built on."

Most of all, they want to score more than 17.3 points per game.

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