Coach Malzhan Speaks Out During SEC Media Days.
Gus Malzhan thinks concerns about the hurry-up offense are a joke!
War Eagle, everybody! SEC Media Days are upon us, and pad popping fall camps can’t be far behind! Today in Hoover, Alabama, Auburn head coach Gus Malzhan took the podium to address the throng of assembled media figures. While much of what each head coach says is predictable (proud of our players, proud of our staff) Gus showed refreshing candor and a willingness to actually answer questions, rather than repeating prepared sound bites as has happened in the past.
Of major note, Gus took the time to observe that there have been no off-field issues since he took the reins of the program, and he thanked the players for buying in and working hard. He also gave a brief evaluation of how the players have done in the classroom, and on the practice field.
“They had a very good spring, feel like we improved in the weight room this summer. We’ve gotten stronger, which we needed to in a big way. Academically, really proud of our guys. Last semester, we had one of the best academic semesters in the history of Auburn football. That usually carries over to discipline and character on the field. Off the field, I’m very proud of our guys, too. Back for eight months, no off-the-field issues. That’s a tribute to our players, real proud of those guys.”
Coach Malzhan also took the time to praise his coaching staff, and indicated that his coordinators were going to be calling the shots on gamedays.
“Very proud of our staffs. I feel we have one of the top staffs in college football. All men of character, great examples for our players. That’s the number one thing for me. All very good coaches. On most college staffs, you have good coaches, good recruiters. I can honestly say we got nine guys that can flat-out coach. That will be very good for us in the future.”
“Offensive coordinator is Rhett Lashlee, a guy I coached in seventh grade. He knows this offense like the back of his hand. I’m going to be a part of the offense, but I have a lot of confidence that he’s going to allow me to do what the head coach needs to do in this league.”
“Our defensive coordinator is Ellis Johnson, who’s one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football. Fundamentally sound. We’ll be running a 4-2-5 defense, which puts three safeties on the field. Allows us to put a little more speed on the field, a little more athleticism and all that.”
As have nearly all coaches thus far during media days, Gus was asked about the hurry-up offense, and possible increased injuries. He replied with this zinger:
“When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was a joke. As far as health or safety issues, that’s like saying the defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down because they’re a little fatigued and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield. If you’re going to look at rule changes officials, we need to look at the guys on defense that are faking injuries to slow down these pace teams. That’s where college football’s going. You see more and more teams using pace. I think you’ll see it more and more at the next level also.”
Tell it like it is, coach! I suspect this will spark even more debate in coming interviews. In fact, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has already reputedly replied to the “joke” part of the quote, by saying, “I’m not a comedian.” No, and I expect that he won’t find much humor on the field this fall in the rapid-fire SEC west!
I think of all the things Gus said, I like this quote best:
“The number one thing that our players have to do for us to be successful this year is to get our edge back. That is the mental and physical toughness, the blue-collar, hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth Auburn football that’s made Auburn great. Worry about your teammate, don’t worry about yourself. Lose the entitlement issue.”
War Eagle, coach!
For me, one of the more interesting facets of today’s coverage was an interview with head SEC referee Steve Shaw, on rule changes this coming fall. While we all love to groan about officiating (especially when it goes against our teams!), Shaw had some interesting and reassuring things to say.
The biggest rule change will the one calling for immediate ejections for “targeting” defenseless players. Shaw indicated that officials must be “100 percent right” on those calls. He also added that those ejections will be automatically reviewed in the booth, and can be overruled on replay. Perhaps we won’t see ruined SEC games this fall due to erroneous ejections? We can only hope. The targeting rule also appears to cover hits on kickers and punters during the return. I’m somewhat confused by this. Suppose the kicker is trying to make the tackle downfield? Can he not be blocked? It will interesting to see how that’s interpreted on the field.
In other rule changes, the officials are going to let the clock run out rather than allowing teams to spike the ball with just one or two seconds left. Also, a team can keep a player on the field, whose helmet came off, if they burn a timeout.