Gus Malzahn comments on Auburn's offense following spring camp, decision to take over playcalling duties
If Gus Malzahn is going to go down at Auburn, he’s going to go down calling the shots.
One of the most interesting decisions made this offseason in the SEC came when Malzahn decided he would call plays for the Tigers in 2019 after giving up those duties in recent seasons to Rhett Lashlee and Chip Lindsey. It’s debatable just how much control Auburn’s head coach gave those assistants during that span but this season, he won’t have to cede anything to offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, as Malzahn has made it clear who will be calling the plays on The Plains in 2019.
During a recent appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show,” Malzahn was asked about his decision to take back control of the playcalling duties at Auburn and his overall thoughts on the program’s offense exiting the spring. Starting with the biggest question mark on Auburn’s roster this offseason — the quarterback competition on The Plains.
According to Malzahn, Auburn’s coaching staff was pleased from all four QBs vying for the right to start next season for the Tigers.
“I think in the spring game, all four played well, I thought that was encouraging. Anytime you got four guys that you feel can run the offense that’s great,” Malzahn said on the show. “The challenge is narrowing it down and we got great information during the spring, we are in the process of meeting with our quarterbacks, talking that through.
“We will have some kind of order, we aren’t going to name a starter this spring, it will go into fall camp. We will narrow it down and we’ll probably do that in the next couple of days.”
A quarterback’s best friend, particularly a first-year starting quarterback, is a good running game. Based on the comments made on the show from Malzahn, the Tigers feel good about three running backs exiting the spring.
“Boobie Whitlow and Kam Martin, those two guys had great springs. DJ Williams, the freshman, also had a very good spring,” Malzahn continued. “But Boobie, starting with him, he is a guy that hadn’t played a lot of running back until last year. He’s just kinda learning on the run. This spring, you can tell he’s really stepped up, more comfortable.”
It took Auburn nearly the entire season in 2018 to deal with the injuries the team suffered at receiver. Will that be an issue next season? Despite the absence of Anthony Schwartz this spring, Auburn’s wideouts impressed Malzahn following camp.
“We got Eli Stove back, of course, he had a big spring game. Will Hastings will be back, along with Anthony Schwartz, he’s been running track. With the guys we have coming back, we feel like we’ve got a good group of receivers,” he added.
While Auburn may be satisfied with the talent at every single offensive position, the Tigers also return all five starting offensive linemen from last season, it won’t matter if the coaching staff doesn’t put the players in the best position to succeed next season. That begins and ends with Malzahn next season as Auburn’s head coach has resumed control of the playcalling duties on The Plains — something that ultimately landed him the job in the first place dating back to the 2013 season.
“That’s who I am, I’m a football coach at my core,” Malzahn said about taking over the offensive playcalling. “Real excited to get back out there and work with the offense, putting our offense together this spring was very refreshing. In this business, this type of job, you live and learn and two and a half years ago, decided to step back and let other people call plays but I’m really excited the bowl game was a lot of fun and this spring was. I’m really looking forward to calling plays in the fall.”
If things don’t work out for Auburn on offense next season, Malzahn won’t have anyone to blame but himself.
However, the early returns have been good since Malzahn took back control of the offense, Auburn scored 63 in the Music City Bowl against Purdue with the head coach calling the shots on offense, and if that momentum carries over to next season the Tigers could prove to be one of the biggest surprises out of the SEC in 2019.