In Gus We Trust – Or Bust
All In – Those two words became ingrained within our subconscious during the previous coaching regime. Ever since Auburn’s run to the national championship in 2010 it has been second only to, “War Eagle,” and for good reason, because All In fits in very well with the current state of Auburn football. Newly hired head-coach, Gus Malzahn, will be taking the Tigers into virtually uncharted waters by structuring his entire program around his fast-paced offensive attack. To accomplish this, he will need the full commitment and cooperation from his entire staff at all times. Building that kind of chemistry will take time, but he has done a good job of bringing in coaches with a ton of previous SEC coaching experience thus far. Bringing Rodney Garner on board has easily been his best move, but it is just one of many brilliant moves Gus will have to make to put Auburn back in the hunt for championships.
Auburn’s new defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, has a challenging role in the new direction of the program. He has to figure out a way for his defense to be successful in a situation that not many defenses have succeeded historically. This will be an interesting aspect to follow as kickoff for 2013 draws near. From day one it has to be accepted and planned for that the Malzahn offense will often put a battle-weary defensive unit back on the field with far less than average rest and recovery time between series. This happens to every team many times during the course of any given season, but with Malzahn you are guaranteed this scenario in essentially every game. Defense will be one of Malzahn’s biggest challenges with the team he’s inherited, but not just purely from a personnel standpoint. Every year, if you look back at the results of the best SEC teams, you will find that they relied heavily on their defenses for 1-2 wins minimum. It doesn’t mean they needed a shutout, but on any given week in the SEC you could easily find yourself scratching and clawing for a 17-14 victory late in the 4th quarter. Johnson will need to be fully committed to operating under the typical Malzahn scenarios in order to be successful.
Offensively, Auburn should improve significantly going forward. Malzahn is a proven commodity in the SEC and college football in general so increased scoring should return early but not fully in 2013. Of all of the hurry-up offenses being implemented, Gus’ is the most physical and that should set up well with the current talent on campus. The shelves are not empty by any means, so that should begin to translate to the field at some point. Gus has consistently been able to get much more than expected out of players and I expect that to continue. The remaining talent and personnel will be much clearer after spring practice and a likely wave of attrition.
The discipline problems sprinkled around the team currently have had obvious effects on performance and overall attitude. A little house-cleaning will probably do the program wonders. Of all the things I can complain about from Chizik or any previous coach’s time at Auburn, discipline will always top my list of gripes (if applicable). Chizik, whether by his own fault or circumstance, fostered a lot of discipline problems among the players and that is unacceptable in my eyes. These young men have been given opportunities most would kill for and to have them bring shame on the university with their misbehavior is unfortunate. I hope Malzahn addresses this issue head-on.
Looking back it seems like All In meant more to the Auburn Family all along. Offenses were muffled, defenses were altered, and all the while we were All In with it, but it is important not to forget the beauty in that. It is also important not forget the importance of it. Gus Malzahn, the little Arkansas high-school football coach that could, is attempting to do something with the Auburn Tigers that’s never been done in the SEC. Yes, it is risky – and yes, there will be growing pains. Success will require the teamwork of the entire program and fan-base, and failure could set the program back tremendously. So grab your ticket for the Gus Bus, because we’re all ALL IN more than ever before.