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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Auburn hires ex-assistant Malzahn

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Gus Malzahn stepped off the plane in Auburn and rushed over to a waiting throng of fans, exchanging high-fives and smiles.

He trumpeted “a new day” for the Tigers an hour or so later at his introductory news conference as head coach Tuesday night, but really he’s hoping to return them to days only recently gone by.

Malzahn brings his fast-paced offense back to Auburn two years after that style — and quarterback Cam Newton — helped the Tigers win a national title.

“It will be fun for our fans and we will get this thing turned around and play championship football like Auburn expects,” he said.

Malzahn was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head coaching position. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

The 47-year-old Malzahn received a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually to try to get Auburn back on solid footing with players he already knows and some he recruited. He replaces former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired one day after a 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama to complete a 3-9 season.

Malzahn hasn’t ruled out coaching in the bowl game for Arkansas State, which said he had a $700,000 buyout. He said he would talk to Arkansas State administrators about that Jan. 5 game with Kent State but that Auburn is his top priority.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs declined to say whom else he interviewed, but said Malzahn was “the clear unanimous choice of our search committee.”

“The characteristics that he brought to the table were head and shoulders above everybody else,” Jacobs said.

The offense especially is in dire need of a makeover after struggles in transitioning to a pro-style system.

Auburn had the nation’s 115th-ranked offense last season, averaging 305 yards a game. The Red Wolves were ranked 19th in total yards under Malzahn.

“We will be a fast-paced, attacking-style offense and defense,” Malzahn said. “In this day and age, I believe you have to.”

It’s the second straight time Auburn has turned to one of its coordinators from an unbeaten team. Chizik ran the defense for the 13-0 team in 2004, and was hired by the Tigers despite a 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State.

On the committee
The search committee was comprised of Jacobs, Auburn Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson, and former Tigers player Mac Crawford.

Jackson said he was confident that “we got the right man.”

“We talked to a lot of talented coaches, a lot of coaches that are going to be Division I coaches other places, and they’re all stars in their own right,” said Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner. “Gus shined a little bit brighter than those guys in the interview process.”

Malzahn said his first priorities will be recruiting and hiring coordinators, but didn’t mention any candidates.

Auburn owes more than $11 million in buyouts to Chizik and his coaching staff. (December 5, 2012, Page 7)

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