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What Gus is sayin,…

By on February 12th, 2013 in Football 11 Comments »

“What Gus is saying here is that we’ve got to stick together on this deal.”*

We’ve all seen evidence of Gus Malzahn’s offense at Arkansas, Tulsa, Auburn, and Arkansas State. We’ve personally watched him take an injured and questionable Chris Todd and make him the most offensively productive Auburn quarterback since Daymeyune Craig, only to see him take following year’s quarterback into the stratosphere of productivity.

Yet despite these gaudy passing numbers, Coach Malzahn is the first to insist his offense is a balanced or even a run oriented one. David Oku, Michael Dyer, Cam Newton, Ben Tate, Tarrion Adams and Darren McFadden would all agree. Each of them had 1000+ yard seasons on a Malzahn coached offense and except for David Oku this last year, all averaged much better than five yards per carry. 

We’ve seen it on the field and there have been countless articles attempting to explain it, but who better to describe it than the man himself?

I found these on YouTube. Now, I realize every coach diagrams plays and can discuss his own offense, but few have matched that discussion to team performances like Coach Malzahn has in the last six years. In this clip, he describes one of his fundamental run plays, the Shotgun Buck Sweep. 

Shotgun buck sweep

A prime example  of the play: Michael Dyer is off to the races on a 52-yard touchdown run against Clemson in 2011.

There are a few things to take from this play.

Number one, I like Gus Malzahn’s instructional style.  It seems evident to me he is very comfortable in a teaching role and describing what his offense keys on from opposing defenses.  I get the feeling that he is instinctively instructive whenever he talks football. The man doesn’t only live the game 24/7, he seems to be in a ‘teaching’ mode with every discussion. 

Secondly, as mentioned before on various comments every play seem formulated with multiple sets, reads, options and fall backs based upon the situation, the strengths of his players, the quality of the defense they face and the tendencies of defensive adjustments. It is also an intense BLOCKING offense. Every man has a man or two in his sights on the snap of the ball, even receivers on routes. Everyone has a specific assignment, even yards away from the flow of the play, well beyond any fake being sprung, just to maintain that same frame of reference to confound the defense when the play goes in another direction.

It reminds me of a favorite quote from my time in the Army.

“All warfare is based on deception….If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them,… Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” Sun Tsu, The Art of War

Obviously, it works.

In the example video, Michael Dyer isn’t even touched by a defender for the first eight yards of the play. He then speeds past the single extended arm and is gone. The play is exactly how Coach Malzahn described it, with each block being executed exactly as he diagrammed. The Clemson defense in 2011 was a good one, and they won that game against us, but during that play they seemed absolutely baffled by the offense they faced.

That shows good coaching, not just athleticism of individual players. It is precise, exacting, fundamental football where everyone knows the plan, the play, his part in it and then executes it perfectly. Athleticism and discipline are still necessary individual traits, but only through coaching do these culminate in success. Coach Malzahn has been able to accomplish this wherever he has had unrestricted license for his offense.

But play calling and preparatory coaching are just two aspects of his success. What about putting it all together in a game? Again, the internet provides a glimpse into how Coach Malzahn constructs his game plan.

Malzahn breaks down the Alabama defense

Ostensibly, this video is a discussion of the 2011 BCS championship prior to the game. In reality, it’s a visual essay on how Coach Malzahn thinks through his game plan, specifically when it comes to what he sees in an opposing defense do on film, how he attacks it and how he overcomes their inevitable adjustments. This video should also dismiss the idea that Coach Malzahn is limited in any way to understanding only the offensive side of the ball.

Don’t all good coaches do this? Sure they do, they wouldn’t be coaching at the collegiate level if they didn’t. But it’s still instructive and interesting to see our football coach do so. He must be supremely confident to put videos like these out on the net. That confidence speaks of a passion for the game that transcends mere position and salary. I realize ‘his’ offense is being run by Coach Lashlee, and any disciple however loyal, will put his own personality into his coaching and planning.

Nevertheless, I have been very impressed with Coach Malzahn and his approach ever since he was hired.  I haven’t seen him take a wrong or even questionable step yet.  Every single action has been well thought out, highly logical, and fulfills a specific need on his staff and team.  Will there be days of frustration or doubt in the future?  No doubt there will be.  But what he has shown so far and what I can see in the videos above shows me he has all the attributes of a winning coach capable of competing at the top level.

It reminds me of  another methodical coach in bygone era that had success everywhere he went. His discipline was legendary, his disciples plentiful but few could match his coaching style, drive, determination and love for the game. 

He even had a distinct flair for teaching whenever he spoke.

The Power Sweep

We know Gus can coach. We know he can recruit. We know he is exacting, demanding and knows how his offense works backwards and forwards. We know he’s put together an incredible staff of quality coaches. We know he has the best fans in the nation, and the opportunity at Auburn to reach for the stars.

We’ve got the Right Stuff. We just need him to put it all together and see how high as we can go.

Photo of the Helix Nebula Credit: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team

Gus Grissom:”f****n’ A, bubba.”*

John Glenn: “That’s right! Exactly!”*

*Quotes and unreferenced pictures from the movie “The Right Stuff.”



  1. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:


    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

  2. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Nice work… like the NASA references. Let’s hope the likeness with Grissom and Malzahn stop at the name.


    • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

      “Gus” was an assumed nickname for Virgil Ivan Grissom. Gustav is Coach Malzahn’s given name.

      As to sharing attributes, while entertaining, the movie did a great disservice to one of our best astronauts and combat veterans (WWII, Korea). Gus was actually very articulate, intelligent and supremely dedicated to the space program (credited for invented the multi-axis controller for docking the Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts).

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        Agreed. No one is questioning his committment and dedication to the USA. He absolutely died a hero and a legend. But it is hard to argue the loss of his mercury spacecraft and the role he played in it. How many spacecraft did we lose this way again?

        The event speaks for itself.

        All I am saying is that one event, no matter how big or small, depending upon your actions can change the publics perception of reality. While you think the movie may have done a disservice, if you did a poll I think you might be surprised by the results – if American’s even knew who he was.


        • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

          On a side note, while I enjoyed Wolfe’s book, the best book I found on ‘the way it was’ inside NASA in the early days was written by Michael Collins of Apollo 11 fame – ‘Carrying the Fire.’

          One of the best personal memoirs I’ve ever read.

  3. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    I bet he is also saying “I’m glad we didn’t sign Brent Callaway”.

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..That’s a great collections of works. I too am excited about Auburn’s offensive prospects in the near future!

  5. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    LOVE his teaching style!

    War Eagle!