How good has Auburn’s Gus Malzahn been at developing quarterbacks since beginning his career as a football coach in 1991?
If awards are a gauge of his effectiveness, Malzahn has pumped out a Heisman winner, a Sun Belt Player of the Year, a Conference USA Player of the Year, a USA Today National High School Player of the Year and an AP Arkansas Player of the Year.
And he’s not even 50 yet and just finished his first season as the head coach at a power program.
As Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune stated earlier this month, Malzahn is like “The Quarterback Whisperer.”
How does he do it?
For some insight on how it works, he told Higgins, “You evaluate a quarterback’s strengths and you try not to ask them to do things they aren’t really good at.”
Malzahn’s coaching express has made stops at the high school level in Arkansas at: Hughes from 1991-1995, Shiloh Christian from 1996-2000 and Springdale from 2001-2005. His college roles include: Arkansas in 2006 (offensive coordinator), Tulsa from 2007-08 (offensive coordinator), Auburn from 2009-2011 (offensive coordinator), Arkansas State in 2012 (head coach) and Auburn in 2013 (head coach).
For proof of his ability as a quarterback kingmaker, take a look at the impressive short list of young athletes he’s already worked with.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics, College Football Data Warehouse and Sports Reference/College Football. Biographical information courtesy of Auburn, Shiloh Christian, USC, Tulsa, Arkansas State and Ole Miss.
Malzahn coached high school football in Arkansas from 1991-2005.
Josh Floyd played quarterback for Malzahn at Shiloh Christian High School from 1996-1998.
According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, Floyd “broke state and national passing records during his three years as a starter, finishing with…66 passing touchdowns in 1998 while throwing for 5,221 yards and rushing for 657.”
Floyd and Malzahn hooked up for Shiloh’s first state title in 1998, and he went on to play for Ouachita Baptist University (Arkansas) where his playing career ended with an injury.
Floyd has served as the head coach and quarterbacks coach at Shiloh for 11 seasons where he has won four state titles.
Lashlee played quarterback for Malzahn in high school and has coached with him seven of the last 10 years.
Like Floyd, Rhett Lashlee also played quarterback under Malzahn at Shiloh.
Lashlee posted 40 wins as the starter at Shiloh (a state record), won two state titles and was named the 2001 AP Arkansas Player of the Year. He finished his high school career with 171 touchdown passes and 13,201 passing yards.
Lashlee was a fourth-string quarterback behind Matt Jones, Ryan Sorahan and Cedric Washington at Arkansas in 2003. His playing career ended with a shoulder injury.
Lashlee broke into coaching with an assistant role under Malzahn at Springdale High School in Arkansas in 2004 and has spent seven of the last 10 years working under his former coach.
He was the offensive coordinator of last season’s Arkansas State team and this season’s Auburn squad.
Lashlee is quickly becoming the “Quarterback Whisperer II.”
Mustain at USC in 2010.
Mitch Mustain played quarterback for Malzahn at Springdale High School in Arkansas where he started in 2004 and 2005.
As a senior in ‘05, Mustain went 190-of-270 (70.4%) for 3,817 yards, 47 touchdowns and six interceptions. He tacked on seven touchdowns and 141 yards as a rusher.
Springdale went 14-0 and won the Arkansas 5-A State Championship that season, and Mustain was named the 2005 Gatorade, USA Today and Parade Magazine National Player of the Year.
After a single season at Arkansas, Mustain went on to play at USC where he backed up Mark Sanchez in 2008 and Matt Barkley in 2009 and 2010.
Mustain is currently on the roster of the Arena Football League’s San Jose Saber Cats.
Paul Smith had a record-breaking season at Tulsa in 2007.
After playing high school football in Oklahoma, Paul Smith’s path collided with Malzahn’s at Tulsa in 2007.
With Malzahn running the Golden Hurricane offense, Smith passed for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns. He finished second in yards and touchdowns to Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and was named the Conference USA Player of the Year.
Smith also set—and still holds—the NCAA record for most games gaining 300 yards or more with 14.
He went undrafted in the 2008 and was on the practice squad for the Jacksonville Jaguars before closing out his playing career with the CFL Montreal Alouettes.
Smith is now a financial consultant in Tulsa, and he also runs the Paul Smith Football Academy which targets quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends.
Johnson at Tulsa in 2008
Malzahn’s second quarterback at Tulsa, David Johnson, was a Davey O’Brien semifinalist in 2008.
Johnson went 258-of-400 for 4,059 yards, 46 touchdowns and 18 interceptions as a senior in ’08. His quarterback rating of 178.7 was second only to Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford.
Tulsa averaged more than 47 points per game in 2008 and was the No. 2-ranked scoring offense in the FBS. The Golden Hurricane finished the season 11-3, including a 45-13 beatdown of No. 23 Ball State in the GMAC Bowl.
Johnson spent the 2013 season as a graduate assistant at Tulsa working with quarterbacks. Look for him to be the next up-and-coming Malzahn protégé in the coaching ranks.
Malzahn and Newton at an Auburn basketball game in 2013.
The winner of the 2010 Heisman Trophy, Cam Newton, hooked up with Malzahn for a single season at Auburn which transformed both men’s careers.
Newton showed up at Auburn after bouncing from Florida to Blinn College and came out of nowhere to lead the Tigers to their first national championship since 1957.
Newton passed for 2,854 yards, rushed for 1,473 more and his quarterback rating of 182.05 put him just behind the No. 1 passer in the FBS, Kellen Moore (Boise State), who posted a 182.64.
As far as what Newton thinks about Malzahn’s impact, here’s the advice he had for Nick Marshall coming into the 2013 season, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com: “If he’ll listen to Coach Malzahn, great things will happen to his career.”
After being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Newton is in his third season as the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.
Malzahn and Aplin in 2012
Ryan Aplin was the starting quarterback at Arkansas State during Malzahn’s single season as the Red Wolves’ head coach.
As a senior in 2012, Aplin went 276-of-406 (68 percent) for 3,342 yards, 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His completion percentage ranked No. 10 in the FBS.
He led Arkansas State to a 10-3 finish, including a second straight conference title and the first bowl win in program history.
Aplin earned Sun Belt player of the year honors in both 2011 and 2012 and just finished his first season as an administrative intern with Ole Miss.
Nick Marshall and Malzahn joined forces in 2013 to take an offense that ranked No. 114 in scoring in 2012 all the way to No. 12.
Marshall was a junior-college transfer from Garden City C.C. (Kansas) where he passed for 3,142 yards and ran for 1,095 in 2012.
Before that, Marshall signed with Georgia as a 4-star athlete in the class of 2011, per Rivals.com, playing defensive back for a single season.
In 2013 Marshall passed for 1,976 yards and rushed for 1,068 more leading Auburn to a SEC title and a national championship appearance.
It’s important to remember Malzahn chose Marshall at the beginning of the season, seeing in him the talent necessary to win games.
Check out what Malzahn had to say after he made the decision, according to Chip Patterson of CBS Sports.
He caught on quickly in the short period of time he has been with us. He is a playmaker with a big upside, and once he becomes more comfortable with the offense, he has the chance to improve each week.