Auburn's search for its 26th head football coach in school history came to a screeching halt on Tuesday afternoon.
Athletic director Jay Jacobs and Auburn's search committee consisting of Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Mac Crawford made the decision to bring former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn back to the Plains as Auburn's next head coach to replace Gene Chizik.
James Bryant of AStateNation.com was the first to report the news via Twitter.
Breaking News: I have confirmed through multiple sources that Gus Malzahn will be named the next head football coach at Auburn University— AStateNation (@AStateNation) December 4, 2012
It is believed that Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart were the two finalists vying for the position.
Immediately following the announcement of Malzahn, questions began to swirl around what Malzahn's coaching staff at Auburn will look like.
When Jacobs announced that Chizik would not return to Auburn in 2013 on November 25, he said that all of the Auburn assistants from Chizik's staff have the option to continue working and can interview with the new head coach once he is hired.
Malzahn's first priority, among many, will be to hire a new staff, particularly two new coordinators. The prospects of staying in Auburn for 2013 do not look promising for offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Loeffler should have considered himself fired before the 2012 season even ended. Chizik's idea of moving away from Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle style of offense to a methodical, pro style of offense that Loeffler employed completely backfired.
Auburn finished the 2012 season ranked 115th in total offense. That is down from No. 21 in 2009 and No. 7 in 2010. In 2011, it is widely assumed that there were more than Malzahn's hands stirring the pot offensively.
With conflicting offensive personalties, there is absolutely no chance that Loeffler stays on Auburn's staff in any capacity.
It is a near certainty that Malzahn will handle the play-calling duties along with his responsibilities as head coach. However, if someone is going to be given the title of offensive coordinator, keep an eye out for Rhett Lashlee. Lashlee is a Malzahn protege and has been groomed by Malzahn for nearly a decade.
He carried the title of offensive coordinator at Arkansas State this year and was a graduate assistant under Malzahn at Auburn in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Lashlee served as the offensive coordinator at Samford University.
VanGorder is much more of a question mark in terms of staying or going. That is simply because of his brand and reputation as a defensive coordinator. VanGorder stated towards the end of the season that he wanted to return and rebuild the defense. (via James Crepea, Montgomery Advertiser)
"I love Auburn. I’d love to build it and regain the tradition and the toughness of this program,” he said. “It’s just such a great place. The people here are great. It’s a great town. Auburn is a special football place. (...) I’d love to turn it around. I’m very confident that we can."
VanGorder will certainly get more consideration than Loeffler because of his brand and reputation, but look for him to get shown the door due to Auburn's defensive performance in 2012. The Tigers finished this season ranked 80th in the country in total defense, allowing 420 yards and 28 points a game.
Auburn delivered some of the most embarrassing defensive performances in school history in 2012. Texas A&M scored the most points ever by an opponent in Jordan-Hare Stadium history when it scored 42 points in the first half and ended with 63 points total.
There were missed tackles and poor fundamentals all over the field each and every week. VanGorder's unit had trouble slowing any sort of offense down, specifically spread offenses from teams like Clemson, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
As for a possible replacement for VanGorder, there are a few names out there. Keep an eye out for former South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. He was just recently fired as head coach of Southern Mississippi. Malzahn's Arkansas State defensive coordinator, John Thompson, could also be an option, although it is believed he will not follow Malzahn to Auburn.
"I do not think John Thompson(def coor) goes with Malzahn to Auburn"- @astatenation— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 4, 2012
Just when one of the most highly anticipated coaching searches in Auburn history has come to an end, Auburn fans must patiently wait for more uncertainty in the coaching ranks.
The Malzahn era of Auburn football will begin with closing the book on the Chizik era by dismissing the two coordinators that oversaw the worst season in the modern era of Auburn football.