Auburn: The Gus Malzahn Phenomena

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

The Auburn faithful are in a frenzy. The spread is coming, the spread is coming. The uptempo spread is coming! As if Paul Revere himself were galloping down on the plains and yelling it.


Here we go again, but this time it is for real....really? It will work, really? The Auburn Tigers have had a coup d'état down on the plains and now things will be different. The new coaches are buying in and the old coaches can't be found. That is why it will work. No old regime chiefs trying to dictate this pow-wow.


Hold on, Pat Dye just addressed the team in Jordan Hare Stadium. That is right. Dye, a coaching legend at Auburn who was basically banned from the athletic grounds for more than half of the Tuberville era after an attempted coup on Tommy, is now back in the loop. His fingerprints have been all over the athletic department for the past four months since Chiziks hire. Oh boy, this is getting good, but I digress.

Gus Malzahn has been imposed as the new czar of the spread offense. He has been heralded as the architect of the new age speed wildcat, single wing, no huddle, hurry-up, whatever you want to call it offense. Auburn's wide receivers coach, Trooper Taylor, said that Malzahn was a "genius", and this after only one scrimmage. To this I say buckle up Auburn fans, you are about to be taken on a ride.


What? You can't get film on Gus' offensive style when he was at Tulsa, What, You don't know how he is going to prepare to beat you? Don't worry, Gus will help you.


Malzahn, like Tony Franklin, AU's ex-OC, is an entrepreneur. He wanted to start something new and sell it. Therefore, Gus made instructional videos and wrote books on his coaching approach. That is a great way to get your new business out there. Unfortunately, it is also a great way to help your opposition get acquainted with your style of play and offensive philosophies.


Point 1) talent, point 2) experience, and point 3) opposing defenses is what makes this style of offense great.


It is said that when Gus was at Arkansas he was relegated to the corner and not allowed to call plays. People continually say Gus was a back-seater at Arkansas, but when he was there the Hogs went 10-4. The Wildhog was being perfected and the attack was on.


That was a great season with losses to Southern California, LSU, UF, and Wisconsin. All of those losses were respectable except USC. He had talent (point 1) with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. You should win some games with those two guys in the backfield. It helps to have talent when running the Wildhog.


And, if you say that he wasn't the play caller then you must not give him credit for that season. And thus, his play calling credibility is decreased in the SEC. Nonetheless, after one year, he leaves for Tulsa and embarks on a furious Offensive Blitzkrieg.


Lets take a look at this Offensive onslaught. The bottom line is that in the 2007 and 2008 season Tulsa played a combined total of 10 teams with winning records which includes their bowl opponents. We are talking opponents whose defenses ranked in 2008 at 119,118, 115, 111, 106, 102, 100, and never below 40th position in total defense (point 3).


One Tulsa loss to take note of was the Arkansas game. Arkansas was ranked 72nd in total defense and Tulsa could not pull it off. Were there interceptions thrown that game? Hmmm.....


The way a lot of those games went for Tulsa was choreographed chaos. The pocket would break down and the quarterback would scramble and a speedy receiver beat out an inferior DB and the ball was gunned down the field. Or the QB had a discombobulated defense, do to a hurry up offense, and was able to exploit the lack of discipline. Great plan when it works, but in the SEC you will find a more disciplined defense.


One question, in this uptempo offense Gus is trying to get the defense off-balance, but what happens when the QB doesn't have time to read the defense or is not capable? Talent and experience is what you want and not what you will always start out with.


Right now Auburn is a little shy on the talent side and has some depth issues at the O-line. Most of their offensive linemen are juniors and they have only recruited two offensive linemen in each of the past two recruiting classes. This could be a problem in 2011 (point 2) for Gus but is more of an issue right now with a line that has broken down more times than a Fiat car.


The quarterback play is another problem (point 1). Kodi Burns and Chris Todd have the most experience in that position, but they have poor experience at best with 7 and6 interceptions respectively and they only played half the season respectively. Some of you will say look at his QB at Tulsa. David Johnson had roughly the same amount of experience that these two auburn qbs did when Gus started with him. Johnson probably had less experience, but, he threw 18 interceptions last season.


To put that in perspective in the SEC, Jarrett Lee of the LSU Tigers threw 16 INTs and lost four games as a starter. Three of those loses could be directly related to the interceptions. One near loss because of a pick six interception was... you guessed it, Auburn. Oh, and by the way, Auburn's Chris Todd threw one more interception than LSU in that game.


This is what can happen when you get intercepted in the SEC. This is what can happen when you don't have time or the capabilities to read the SEC defenses. They can make you pay. In C-USA the defenses and offenses are a little more forgiving on turnovers.


But, even if you have a low interception rating doesn't necessarily mean that you will win the games. Take Mississippi State for instance. Tyson Lee threw five interceptions in 2008 but only won four games. On the flip side Tim Tebow threw 4 interceptions and won the national championship. Obviously, talent matters.


Does Auburn have the talent? If they do the "genius" Gus Malzahn needs to develop it in a hurry....and pray that they don't lead the SEC in interceptions.


So, Auburn, the spread is coming, the spread is coming, the uptempo spread is coming, are you ready,...again?