Chizik making excellent hires at Auburn

By Robert Rousseau  |   Wednesday, December 31, 2008  |  Comments( 1 )

Auburn Tigers
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When looking at Gus Malzahn, Auburn's newly hired offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, don’t think of pointing your eyes in the direction of that 2006 Arkansas Razorbacks 'O' he headed solely. While that offense was a scoring machine, Malzahn wasn't necessarily given the reins completely. Of course, you can understand why then-head coach Houston Nutt decided to forgo the pass with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden in the backfield. It sure did work.

But to know Malzahn, a great Sunday hire by new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, one should look to the past and present. You see, as a high school head coach Malzahn’s clubs won three state titles in 14 seasons, including posting an undefeated record and gaining a top 10 ranking during his final season at Springfield.

Then there’s the present and near-present. In 2007, Malzahn’s Tulsa offense was ranked first in the nation, putting up 543.9 yards per game. In 2008, his Tulsa offense ranked second nationally, but it also finished eighth in the nation in rushing, accumulating 254.9 yards per game. Moreover, the team put up 47.4 points per game during the regular season.

It is likely the rushing part of Malzahn’s no-huddle, spread offense that has Chizik believing he can succeed where Tommy Tuberville’s former assistant failed. After all, in order to win at Auburn, you need to run the ball effectively.

"We're going to be a run, play-action team," Malzahn said. "I know a lot of people categorize me as a spread team, (but) if you really look back at my history, we're going to play smash-mouth football. We're going to set up the pass with the run. I really think the difference (between) us and most run/play-action teams is we're going to throw the ball vertically down the field and we're going to do that quite often."

Chizik had glowing things to say about his new hire and rightfully so.

"His track record at all levels of coaching is remarkable and his offenses have been extremely successful both running and passing the ball," Chizik said. "It's truly impressive that he oversees an offense that is in the top 10 nationally in all five major offensive statistical categories. We're looking forward to having Gus on board."

Malzahn will take up with the Tigers after Tulsa’s bowl game against Ball State.

Then there’s Chizik’s decision to bring linebackers coach James Willis back. In a word, smart. Beyond Willis’ ability to coach linebackers, a skill that is quite apparent, are his recruiting capabilities. Willis has been a main force in compelling four of Auburn’s commitments to do so this season, and has been invaluable in this regard in years past.

"James is a tremendous coach and an outstanding recruiter," Chizik said in a statement released by the school. "I had the opportunity to work with him while I was defensive coordinator at Auburn, and it was apparent to me then that James was going to be very successful at this level. He is a high-energy coach (who) relates well with the student-athletes."

In the end, Chizik hasn’t made a lot of hires to his staff. But the ones he has made have been nearly perfect.
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About Robert Rousseau

Robert Rousseau is a sports writer that has been published in a variety of print and online venues. He’s been writing for for almost three years now. When Rousseau isn’t writing about college football he tends to be penning mixed martial arts pieces for or...
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