The Genius of Gus Malzahn

October 8, 2010

Auburn's offense has thrived under Gus Malzahn

Auburn offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, is arguably college football’s most creative offensive mind. One of the early innovators of the current wildcat offense, a formation he routinely ran at Arkansas with former Razorbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Malzahn has been successful at every stop throughout his coaching career. Most recent, his offensive philosophy has propelled the Auburn Tigers to the top of nearly every single offensive statistical category since his arrival last season. Under his guidance, this year’s Auburn Tigers team currently ranks 7th in the nation in total offense (2,377) and rushing yards (1,345), and is 9th in yards per game (475). Although the college football world was already familiar with the offensive genius that Malzahn possessed, his time at Auburn has certainly reaffirmed the public that he is the best at his position, without question.

Malzahn rose from virtually unknown to highly sought after in the short span of one season at the University of Arkansas.  After being tabbed to run the Arkansas offense in 2006, Malzahn’s no-huddle, spread-option offensive attack took the SEC by storm. His fast-paced, accelerated offense sent opposing defensive coordinators into a collective frenzy, with many struggling to implement ways to contain it. After losing the season opener to USC, Arkansas went on to win ten straight games, clinching the SEC West, and securing a spot in the SEC Championship game. The 2006 Razorbacks finished the season ranked 20th nationally in total offense with 5,362 yards. For his efforts, named Malzahn National Offensive Coordinator of Year.

Amidst growing dissent between Malzahn and then Arkansas head coach, Houston Nutt, Malzahn departed Arkansas in 2007 for the offensive coordinator position at Tulsa. It was during his first year at Tulsa, that Malzahn truly displayed his genius to the college football world. The 2007 Golden Hurricane were unstoppable on offense, not only through the air, but also on the ground. While Tulsa led the nation in total offense (7,615 yards) and yards per game (543), they finished second nationally in touchdowns (79). In addition, they boasted both a 1,000 yard rusher (Tarrion Adams), and three 1,000 yard receivers (Charles Clay, Brennan Marion, Trae Johnson). Malzahn’s 2007  Tulsa offense would go on to shatter numerous conference and NCAA records en route to a 10-win season.

If any skeptics doubted his successful 2007  campaign, Malzahn’s 2008 season with Tulsa would prove to silence them. Tulsa finished the 2008 season first in the nation in total yards per game (569), second in points per game (47), and fifth in rushing yards per game (268).

After two seasons of serving on the coaching staff at Tulsa, Gus Malzahn was named offensive coordinator at Auburn on December 28, 2008. It is to no surprise that after assuming head coaching duties, Gene Chizik sought heavily after Malzahn to run his offense, a move that has already paid dividends for the Auburn Tigers. In his first season with the Tigers, the Auburn offensive unit finished the year ranked 16th nationally in total offense with 5,613 yards per game; a vast improvement from finishing 105th (3,635 yds) in 2008, the year before Malzahn’s arrival. The Tiger offense also set school records for points in a season (433), total yards in a season (5,613), and most passing touchdowns in a season (25).

While Auburn’s 7th-ranked offense continues to dominate in 2010, look for Malzahn’s name to be mentioned as the inevitable coaching vacancy carousel begins to spin. He has more than proven himself to be worthy of consideration of a head coaching position. With athletic departments in Athens and Baton Rouge becoming more frustrated with each passing week, Malzahn is an asset that numerous schools would embrace with open arms.

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