The group charged with finding Auburn a new head coach has moved on to the "official contact" phase at committee member Mac Crawford's home in Nashville. Late Sunday night -- or early Monday morning, depending on your level of insomnia -- Auburn Undercover's Phillip Marshall reported ($) that former offensive coordinator and current Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn interviewed for the vacancy on Sunday.
Auburn interview for Gus Malzahn?auburn.247sports.com/Article/Auburn…— Auburn Undercover (@Auburn247) December 3, 2012
Malzahn was reportedly in Nashville following his team's regular-season finale against Middle Tennessee State. Arkansas State won, 45-0, giving the Red Wolves the Sun Belt championship. Arkansas State finished Malzahn's first season at the helm with a 9-3 mark and averaged 36.4 points and 481.8 yards per game.
Malzah was Auburn's offensive coordinator for three years, including the National Championship run in 2010. Under his direction, the offense soared to record-breaking heights in 2009 and 2010, and many fans and media pundits have credited Malzahn as the catalyst for Auburn's title run, rather than recently departed head coach Gene Chizik.
Malzahn has had a seemingly meteoric rise to fame within the coaching industry in recent years. It's taken him six short years to go from his roots as a high school coach to a head coach at the FBS level. In 2006, Houston Nutt gave Malzahn his first chance at the collegiate level by naming him offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Arkansas. His hiring had a lot to do with his coaching ability and maybe a little to do with Nutt wanting to sign a prized recruit from Shiloh Christian High School where Malzahn was coaching at the time. Nevertheless, Arkansas' offense clicked, and the Razorbacks found themselves int he SEC Championship Game that season.
After just one season at Arkansas -- and some disagreements with Nutt on how to run the offense -- Gus moved on to take the offensive coordinator position at Tulsa. In 2007, Tulsa's offense led the nation in total yards with a balanced attack, and that was enough to garner an interview at Arkansas for their vacant head coaching position, which ultimately went to Bobby Petrino. Malzahn was named assistant head coach at Tulsa following the interlude, and he went on to once again lead the Golden Hurricane to be the nation's most prolific attack. His offense led the nation in total yards and was second in scoring at 47 points per game.
Following the 2008 season, Malzahn was named offensive coordinator at Auburn. In his first season, 2009, Malzahn led the Tigers to significant improvements over the previous season, and the Tigers finished in the top 20 nationally in total offense, despite being led by immobile quarterback Chris Todd and his bum shoulder. That season set a new mark for the single season total offense at Auburn, a record previously held by the undefeated 2004 team. In 2010, Malzahn tutored a young quarterback named Cameron Newton, a transfer from Blinn College in Texas, into a Heisman Trophy winner and helped lead Auburn to its first national title in over 50 years. The 2010 offense rewrote record books, not only for the school, but for the NCAA, as well, and Malzahn was awarded the Broyles Award as the nations top assistant coach. The 2011 season saw a bit of a decline, as was expected after losing four senior offensive linemen, a Heisman-winning quarterback and the top two receivers, and Malzahn left Auburn for his first collegiate head coaching job at Arkansas State following the season.
Malzahn has earned a reputation as an "offensive genius" and is known for his tireless work ethic. However, following his departure from Auburn after the 2011 season, some fans wondered what his role was regarding the rumored discipline problems surrounding players like Michael Dyer. Dyer had numerous issues while on the Plains, and there were rumors of some being swept under the rug in order to keep him on the field. After his dismissal from the team, Malzahn welcomed the running back at Arkansas State as a transfer. Dyer found himself in more trouble before Malzahn was forced to dismiss him ASU, as well.
If Malzahn were to land the Auburn job, explaining his role in team discipline may be a topic he will have to address with the search committee. For Auburn fans, he is a familiar name, one that brings back good memories of 2010. How serious of a candidate will he be in this coaching search? That's still to be seen, but Auburn could do worse. The hope of many fans is that Malzahn could be similar to Chip Kelly with his fast-paced, high-scoring offense and consistent production. The question many Auburn fans will ask, though, is who he would tab to improve a porous defense. As the search continues, Malzahn is certainly a name to watch.