By Scott Crumbly
SEC Digital Network
Just one year removed from his stint as offensive coordinator at Auburn, first-year Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn is set to come back to the Tigers, this time as head coach.
Malzahn successfully restored the Auburn offense during his three-years at the helm of the attack from 2009 until 2011, and he will be tasked with a similar restoration upon his return.
Auburn (3-9, 0-8 SEC) finished last in the conference in total offense, producing just 305 yards and 18.7 points per game. In 2009, Malzahn took over an offense that averaged just 302 yards and 17.3 points per contest the previous season and molded it into one of the best units in the country over the course of just two years.
In Malzahn’s first year as coordinator, the Tigers improved drastically on their way to 431 yards per game, the second highest total in the SEC. With a solid foundation in place after year one, Malzahn’s offense made another giant leap in 2010 en route to one of the greatest seasons in school history.
With eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback, the Tigers led the conference in total offense and finished seventh nationally with averages of 499 yards and 41 points per game. Auburn churned out an SEC-best 284 yards per game on the ground, and Newton ended the season as the conference’s leading rusher and sixth-leading passer.
Malzahn was the architect of a dynamic offense designed to highlight Newton’s unparalleled athleticism and helped the talented signal-caller rack up over 4,300 total yards and 50 total touchdowns. Newton was recognized as college football’s most outstanding player, and Auburn rounded out an undefeated season with wins in the SEC Championship Game and BCS National Championship.
In one season as head coach at Arkansas State in 2012, Malzahn’s Red Wolves were one of the Sun Belt’s most prolific offensive squads. ASU led the league in rushing (219 yards per game) and scoring (36.4 points per game) en route to a Sun Belt Championship and berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl set for Jan. 6.
Malzahn also produced an explosive offense during his time as offensive coordinator at Tulsa from 2007 to 2008; the Golden Hurricane led the nation in total offense during those two years, which is another strong testament to the offensive genius that the 47-year-old coach will bring back to Auburn.
One thing Malzahn has shown during his time as an offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Auburn and as head coach at Arkansas State is that it does not take him long to put his fingerprints on a program. With Auburn looking to rebound off a disappointing season, the opportunity for a great turnaround has presented itself to the young coach once again.