Hurry Up and Wait
Tom has Jerry, Batman has the Joker, Charles Barkley has his golf swing, and now Nick Saban has Gus Malzahn. For the first time in many months, Auburn fans had reason to rejoice earlier this week when Gus Malzahn was introduced as Auburn’s new head football coach. The hire does not come without criticism. Some consider Malzahn’s re-introduction as more of the same incompetence that is believed to have established strong roots in the athletic department. However, no matter what side of the fence you occupy on this issue, it’s hard to deny the spark Gus Malzahn gives the program.
Who better to take on the ever-advancing Nick Saban? Gus, quite simply, never slows down. His hurry-up offensive attack creates the perfect counter to Saban’s defensive philosophy. For all intents and purposes, the stage has been set for a potential blockbuster era of Auburn vs. Alabama football. For now though, Malzahn will have to set his sights on putting the program back on track to competitive football and Auburn fans must wait an entire off-season to punch their tickets on the ‘Gus Bus.’
The first challenge: Transforming the mindset/mentality of the team. All of the players have to get on board with the new philosophy of the program and begin pulling in the same direction. Gus has always demanded top-notch work ethic and attention to detail from his offensive units. He must now instill this mindset in the Auburn program.
The shelves are not empty. Incoming Malzahn staff members will have a substantial amount of talent to work with. It is going to be expected that this talent shows through on the field.
It wasn’t me! Early on, it is apparent that Malzahn wishes to distance himself from Chizik’s tenure through his staff choices.
More of the same? Early success will be vital for Malzahn. A slow start to the 2013 season could fuel frustration among the fan-base and lead many to believe that the problems within the program were never dealt with or addressed. If he is able to get Auburn out to a strong start, Malzahn will be rewarded by immense support. The Auburn Family is desperate for something to celebrate, and winning will be a silver bullet for any woes still lingering from the Chizik era.
Boldly Going. Ellis Johnson was Gus’s first official staff addition, and it is an ironic one. Johnson spoke out in the past against Malzahn’s offense and similar ones. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Right? I guess that is what E.J. had in mind. As Auburn’s defensive coordinator, he must find a way to field the best defense possible while being constantly pressured by Malzahn’s offensive style. Johnson will also need to focus on strengthening the Tigers’ defensive fundamentals.
ALL IN! Auburn officials are heavily invested in Malzahn. The payoff could be huge, but the risk is a football program being completely broken-down and a fan base being alienated.
Gus Malzahn has now put himself in place to complete one of the greatest journeys a football coach has ever taken. Once a high-school defensive coordinator, he now finds himself at the reigns of an upper-tier SEC football program. Gus will bring an excitement back to the program that it has desperately needed for over a year. The road back to relevancy will be a difficult one, but I have confidence that the ‘Gus Bus’ will find a way.