Gus Malzahn spoke to the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club Tuesday night at the group's annual Recruiting Wrap-Up. About 200 Auburn supporters welcomed Malzahn to his first Auburn Club meeting as the Tigers' head coach.
Malzahn made a video presentation featuring each member of the 2013 signing class. Starting with the defensive players, Malzahn showed film of each signee, frequently rewinding and replaying footage while pointing out specific abilities and skill sets.
Coach Malzahn repeatedly emphasized the importance of finding defenders who can finish plays. "A lot of guys can get there, but they can't finish," he explained. Malzahn assured the crowd that signees such as defensive end Elijah Daniel have proven ability to finish.
Malzahn said that signing effective pass rushers was a priority for 2013, especially after the departure of 2012 starter Corey Lemonier. Footage of defensive end Carl Lawson fighting off four blockers to ultimately make a sack drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Another priority for the 2013 class was the safety position. Malzahn spoke about the importance of having defensive backs who can tackle and said that when it comes to safeties, Khari Harding is "the most vicious hitter in the whole land."
Switching to the offense, Malzahn said it is “very hard to sign three quality guys” at quarterback, but that is just what Auburn did in the 2013 class. The highlights of Jeremy Johnson, Nick Marshall, and Jason Smith were all impressive. Speaking of Johnson, Malzahn said “you can’t teach a quarterback the deep ball...he’s got it.”
The coach then showed Johnson on a breakaway run and asked, “Does that remind y’all of anybody?” The audience enjoyed the coach’s reference to Cam Newton.
Malzahn also noted Auburn’s need at wide receiver and said signees Marcus Davis, Earnest Robinson, Dominic Walker and Tony Stevens all “have a chance to be difference makers.” The biggest laugh of the evening came in response to Malzahn’s comment on Stevens doing a front flip into the end zone to finish a long scoring play: “We’re gonna correct that.”
After reviewing the 2013 class Malzahn reminded the audience, “It never ends; so right now our coaches—we’re thinking about 2014 and 2015.” Malzahn closed his remarks by talking about Auburn’s transition from the recent past into the fast-approaching future.
We’re starting over. I told the players, I don’t care what you've done in the past, I don’t care what happened last year—we’re starting over. And one thing I’ll tell you right now, I’ll promise you this: we’re gonna get our edge back and we’re gonna get back to playing good, hard-nosed Auburn football.
Josh Dowdy is a Contributor for Bleacher Report and the author of Orange Is Our Color: The Tuberville Years Through Navy-tinted Glasses. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.