After Gus Malzahn lands at UCF, many foolishly claim Tennessee missed out on former Auburn coach

Gus Malzahn is headed to UCF and it’s taken a nanosecond for some to call out Tennessee for missing out on the former Auburn coach.

It’s easy to look at Malzahn’s overall record at Auburn and the accomplishments of his Tiger program over the years and say Tennessee hired a less accomplished coach in Josh Heupel, which is factually accurate, but it’s not like programs that hire coaches earn those previous accolades by association.

If you take a step closer and review Malzahn’s final seasons at Auburn, it’s hard to sell Malzahn as an up-and-comer that could have rebuilt the Volunteer program. Hell, Malzahn probably would not have lasted as long as he did on The Plains if not for the outstanding job Kevin Steele and the defensive staff did recruiting and coaching the side of the ball Malzahn couldn’t derail.

For all the credit Malzahn gets for being an offensive guru, his Auburn program failed to develop a quarterback going back to Nick Marshall, who last played for Auburn in 2014.

Here’s a look at Auburn’s offensive efficiency numbers ranked nationally in recent seasons (according to The Fremeau Efficiency Index): 48th in 2020, 46th in 2019 and 35th in 2018.

By comparison, here are the numbers for Heupel’s UCF offense during that same time: 13th in 2020, 9th in 2019 and 4th in 2018.

Malzahn’s annual meddling in Auburn’s offense and play-calling duties, which including having the lone authority to offer scholarships to offensive players, also resulted in offensive lines that routinely had to rely on graduate transfers from the likes of Arkon, Harvard, Jacksonville State and UMass just for depth.

Auburn also lost offensive coordinators to UConn and Troy in recent seasons. How often do you see a Power 5 coordinator leave for a coordinator position at UConn or Troy?

On top of all of this, Auburn recently agreed to pay Malzahn $21.45 million to not coach the team.

None of this means Heupel will prove to be a successful hire at Tennessee, the Vols are going to be handicapped with likely NCAA sanctions coming in the near future, but if Malzahn didn’t work out at Auburn (an SEC program on firmer ground than the one in Knoxville), it’s confusing why so many are quick to believe he would have worked out at Tennessee.

The Vols needed to swing for an up-and-coming coach, not one that’s failed to keep another SEC fan base happy in recent seasons.

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    • FACING SEC refs? Heck, they GAVE Gus the Auburn game. AND the Ole Miss game. Take your fingers off the keyboard and go to a 10 minute timeout.

      • Buddy, that was just the Arkansas game. In the Ole Miss game, our RB touched the ball when the refs said he didn't, but also in that game, Tank had a kickoff return for a TD, which was called back by a horrible holding call. Chill.

        • The difference is that one was reviewable and they blew it, the other was just a regular call. AU got a gift in the OM game or they would have lost that one too.

        • Agree on the Tank, but only the RB really knows if he touched the ball. He may have, maybe he didn't. But fans screaming like they absolutely know he did are idiots.

    • Last season, those SEC refs helped win a couple of games for Auburn. Unbelievable fortune.

      With that said, Gus should do well at UCF. I just don't see him as a great fit at TN. He will probably enjoy UCF ...talent rich state, no Auburn admin to deal with, no constant SEC pressure, no Bama in the same state. Sure there is FL, FSU and Miami...but all are in different conferences and the AUB/Bama rivalry and conference dynamic is unique.

      • Biased. We only won the Arkansas game because of the refs. Quit trolling lmao. The refs in the Ole Miss game were just bad in general. Ask any unbiased fan who watched that game.

      • I hate to disagree, but I do. Gus beat Saban 3 times. More than any other coach has ever done. He made it to a National Championship once, and has made two SEC Championship appearances. The last three years have been bad for him, But he's still a top 15 coach in the country. Not average. And in a bad conference, he'll hardly lose a game.

        • This is what I'll miss about Gus at auburn - it's not about how he lost 4-5 games every year, it's that he beat Saban three times. He was the living embodiment of your culture.

        • Beating Saban 3 times is what people hang their hats on, but it is a useless metric. The only time that he beat Bama and it really made a difference in the outcome of the season, was in 2013. In 2017 Bama still played for, and won the CFPNCG, in 2019 Bama was not going to go to the playoffs anyway, due to the LSU loss. All of the appearances that you name, but one, happened in 2013. In 2017 they shared a divisional title lost the SECCG and to the same G-5 team he is now coaching in a bowl, and ended with the usual 4 losses. Gus was average. The only way you can say different is if you think AU can do no better and are satisfied with 4.7 losses a season, and winning less than 1.5 more conference games than he lost each year.

        • Still doesn't erase the point that Aubie108 is wrong...Gus has not beaten Saban more than any other coach has ever done...Tommy Tuberville had a winning record (4-3) against Saban at LSU and Alabama...as an Auburn fan one would expect Aubie to know that...

        • I wasn’t thinking about Saban at LSU. What I meant is that Gus has beaten Saban the most while at Alabama. It’s it’s not like the only thing Gus can do is beat Bama. He can win games and if not win them, make them close. He’s a great recruiter except for this year. And I think beating the usual #1 or #2 team in the country 3 times is pretty good when almost nobody else can beat them. Gus actually out-coached Saban every time Auburn beat Alabama. Especially on that 5-yard penalty at the end of the 2019 Iron Bowl. He got Saban confused and won that game with that formation call.

        • Right, it's not like the only thing Gus can do is beat Bama - he can also usually not beat Bama and lose 4-5 games a year. In addition to sneaky penalties on punts, his elite coaching prowess leads him to being 0-11 in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, and Athens.

          I'd be pretty glad this guy wasn't my coach anymore and I didn't have to fluff him up any longer.

        • I’m glad he’s not our coach anymore. But he’s a dang good one. I mean you act as if beating Bama should be a cake walk with the endless 5-stars they bring in. It’s not. 3 wins is not bad.

        • LeghumperU 2 DAYS AGO
          And you call yourself an Auburn fan….curious, how many times did Tommy T beat Saban?

          Tubs record versus Saban: Tuberville had a winning record (4-3) against Saban at LSU and Alabama,

      • I like Gus...but I don't think he would've done any better at Tenn than he did at Auburn, and with just as brutal a schedule at Tenn maybe even tougher.

  • The Heupel hire at Tennessee still raises my eyebrows a lot. That new AD, Danny While knew who he was going to hire when he was still in Florida looking at the Vols offer. Gus would have given Tennessee far more stability during this very difficult time. Time will tell how UCF-North is progressing in Knoxville.

      • Probably wouldn't have. Gus was an average at best coach, but he had class, character, and he ran a clean program.

        • Indeed. And it’s not like the guy who was committed to Tennessee wasn’t talented. He was a high 3-star with 4-star highlights.

      • You have no idea what you’re talking about, how about getting the facts before you run your mouth! Pruitt could have sighed the kid in December, but didn’t. So yeah, you have absolutely no clue about the situation, so shut up.

        • A coach shouldn’t pull a kids scholarship unless he gets hurt. Get mad all you want. I’m not shutting up.

    • The Harsin Hire at Auburn still raises my eyebrows a lot...I think Heupel has more upside and a better offensive coach. Plus Heupel has SEC experience. Harsin didn't set the world on fire at Boise either, and consistently lost 3 games a year.

  • I dont think I would want Gus. Bratton listed some of the reasons but I just never felt he was one that could lead UT back to the promised land, especially in light of the hot mess. Dont get me wrong I dont think Heupel is that guy either but bat least feel hes different in a good way. Gus just feels like another worn out shoe to me.

    The next great coach at UT will likely be hired in 2024 or 2025 unless heupel does some things nobody expects him to. That would suit me fine too.

    Until then not much we can do but wait for sanctions to come and go.

    • fuzzy...Exactly what is the "promised land" for Tennessee ? A record of 9-3 (or) are you talking a National Championship ? I hope the Vols are competitive in the SEC East, so that it's not totally dominated by Florida & Georgia. A stronger SEC East benefits the entire conference.

    • You are spot on.

      Heupel is most likely a stop gap for the foreseeable future. Main 3 issues for UT as I see it are: rebuilding the roster, NCAA sanctions, and winning back the fan base. I know UT is as passionate a fan base as you could hope for. But you all have taken some serious hits since 2008. Gus is not the kind of coach that inspires the fan base. He is much too private an individual for that. He has too much of an inbred mistrust of people in general and the media in particular for the kind of rebuilding job you need.

      I think UT did the right thing right now. It may not work long term as far as wins and losses go. Once you are thru the sanctions and get the roster back where you need it, you should know if Heupel makes it long term (if you keep OU out of the picture) or another change is necessary.

      I wish you all luck. You need it and the SEC needs you all to be good.

      • You are spot on

        Harsin is most likely a stop gap for the foreseeable future. Other than no NCAA Sanctions looming, Auburn isn't in too much a better position.

        I wish Auburn luck. You need it and the SEC needs you all to be good.

        • Auburn is currently a much better program than Tennessee. Whine all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that Tennessee is the SEC's doormat. Auburn's only problem is that they can't find consistent success against some of the most elite teams in the country. Tennessee can't even find success against bad non-Power 5 teams. It's cute that you want to compare, but the comparisons aren't apt.

        • I wouldn't call them the doormat, but you are correct that AU is the better job at this point and historically UT was not won that many more games than AU. I think they have won 25 more.

  • A little less pressure at UCF, maybe Gus can get it going again. I wish him well. he's a good guy that always ran a clean program, got to give him that.

  • From my view point Gus has the better of the situations. He's not walking into a dumpster fire with NCAA sections looming and UCF is not in the SEC so Gus should do ok. Heupel on the other hand, is ass deep in NCAA alligators and still has to have the Vol's ready to play a tough SEC schedule.

    • Gus will be Gus. He cannot, cannot, cannot keep from meddling in the OC duties. This will always create friction and the players will sense it. I’ll give him 4 years at most in the sunshine state.

      • He has already said he will be calling plays.

        I assume from the same playbook as he had at AU. Thats about a dozen running plays and 2 pass patterns.

        Follow the Hback and you have the play called.

        And everyone knows it.

  • I have to agree with the writer. Gus averaged 4.7 losses a year while at AU, for the last 7 years he has not had less than 4 losses, but he has had more too. Gus, IMO, does not have the record nor the personality to raise a team up like UT needs, even if he does, he has proven that his ceiling is 4-5 losses a year and that is hardly competitive for championships or even divisional titles. UT has only won 25 more games than AU in history so you can't use the reasoning that they are the stronger program so it would be easier to recruit. In fact it would be easier at AU based on the last 22 years.

    This is NOT a flame at AU. I know many AU fans that have had to suffer through the expectations of AU under Gus, only to have them dashed as the same old thing under Gus. Gus is not going to change his stripes at this point. He and he alone is going to control his offense, recruit his players, and not very well, and he is going to run his offense whether he has the players to run it in the first place.

    It is surprising that Gus would take a G-5 job. If he waited a year he would probably get another chance at a P-5 job. Now if he does not vastly improve upon his results he will probably never get another chance at a major P-5 job. You also have to wonder if he is going to have the same drive. I am sure he is emotionally weary with the way things turned out at AU, and he dang sure does not need the money. Needing to build your name and eat is a major motivator in all professions, Gus is lacking these, so it will have to come from within and that is where you have to wonder about fatigue. Gus is a nice guy that runs a clean program, I wish him success, but I highly doubt he finds it.

    • I have a feeling Gus settles in at UCF. I think he's best fitted for the southeast, and I don't think any of the P5 teams in the region would be interested. He'll do as well or better then UCF's previous coaches, and wouldn't be as inclined to use the for a stepping stone.

      • You could be right, time will tell. Heupel only had 2 losses a year his first 2, then did not do so well with the pandemic year. He still only averaged 2.7 losses a year, which is better than Gus' entire time at AU. I just think that with Gus refusing to evolve his offense, and the inability to develop a QB, and the inability or his seeming lack of importance of the O-line, that Gus may have a couple of pretty good years and then it will be the same ole Gus.

  • As a rival SEC East fan I must admit I couldn't be happier that Gus will recruiting heavily in Dan's back yard...

Published by
Michael Wayne Bratton

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