Auburn Tigers' Gus Malzahn Not Just a One-Trick Pony

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Auburn Tigers' Gus Malzahn Not Just a One-Trick Pony
Gus Malzahn won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach in 2010. (Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI)

I've seen a lot of comments about Malzahn implying that Cam Newton is the reason for his success, but this is simply not true.

If anything, the reason for Cam Newton's overwhelming success this season can be attributed, in part, to Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn, five years removed from coaching high school football in Springdale, Ark., has more buzz going for him right now than almost any coach in the sport.

He carries success wherever he goes and adapts to the tools at his disposal when he gets there. In his first season at Arkansas, the Razorbacks went 10-4 after going 4-7 the previous season.

Malzahn left Arkansas after one season and went to Tulsa for two years, where his offense was ranked No. 1 in both seasons and would break an NCAA record in 2008.

Prior to his arrival, Tulsa averaged 388.5 yards per game (162 rushing, 226.5 passing) in 2006.

Tulsa's offense exploded in 2007 under Malzahn, netting 7,615 total yards of offense (543.9 yards per game). The offense was ranked No. 1 nationally in total yards and No. 3 in passing, as well as the No. 6 scoring offense at 41.1 points per game.

Tulsa quarterback, Paul Smith, nearly doubled his production under Malzahn. Smith threw for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns (9.3 yards per attempt) in 2007—compared to 2,727 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2006.

In 2008, Malzahn's offense broke the NCAA record for total yards despite having a new quarterback to work with. 

The Golden Hurricanes led the nation once again with 7,978 total yards (4,226 passing and 3,752 rushing) and averaged 47.4 points per game en route to a 10-3 season. Tulsa was 20-7 while Malzahn was offensive coordinator there.

Malzahn jumped at the offer to join a big-time collegiate program when the Auburn Tigers came calling.

He took over for an offense that had struggled mightily in 2008, averaging 302 yards per game and registering only 17 points per contest. It was the second year in a row that Auburn fielded an anemic offense.

Auburn's offense surged to life in 2009 with Malzahn's guidance. The Tigers ended up with the 21st best offense (432.3) in the country in yardage and nearly doubled in scoring, averaging 32.3 points per game (ranked 20th nationally).

He did this with practically the same offense. Chris Todd, Auburn's quarterback in 2008, was a new man under Malzahn.

Chris Todd 2008 2009
Passing Yards 903 2,612
Completion % 55.1 60.4
Yards Per Attempt 5.8 8.0
Touchdowns 5 22
Interceptions 6 6
QB Rating 106.7 145.7

 

Obviously, Todd threw a lot more passes in 2009, but the gap in improvement is noticeable even with a small sample size from 2008. He threw as many interceptions in 328 attempts as he did in 156 attempts in 2008.

The success continued to this season. Auburn's offense currently ranks as the seventh best offense in the country (No. 6 rushing, No. 69 passing, No. 6 scoring) behind one of the best players in college football, Cam Newton.

Malzahn's success as an offensive coordinator is not directly related to one player, however. In his five-year career as an offensive coordinator, he has been the mind behind four highly successful offenses. That's two different teams and four different quarterbacks.

The man is an offensive genius, in short. I've written that he would most likely be leaving Auburn after this season, but it seems he's staying put for at least one more season. You can expect to see Auburn's offense near the top next season, even without Cam Newton.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at jtmcadams@aol.com. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.

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