June 21, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN - Rhett Lashlee doesn't have to guess what his boss will do when the pressure is on. He already knows from years of experience.
When, after three years as Auburn's offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn left to be head coach at Arkansas State, he snatched Lashlee from Samford to be his offensive coordinator. When Malzahn returned last December to be Auburn's head coach, he quickly hired Lashlee again. Four years earlier, he brought Lashlee to Auburn with him as a graduate assistant.
Though Lashlee is one of the younger coordinators in FBS football, he's a veteran when it comes to working with Malzahn and the offense Malzahn created in a legendary Arkansas high school coaching career. Lashlee played quarterback for Malzahn at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Ark., and helped him coach at Arkansas before joining him at Auburn. Last season at Arkansas State, they worked together as head coach and offensive coordinator for the first time.
Malzahn trusts no one more than the he trusts the 29-year-old Lashlee.
"He knows this offense like the back of his hand," Malzahn said. "We work extremely well together. He's battle-tested, even though he's young. We've been through some big games together, and he deserves a lot of credit for our offensive success."
And that's why Lashlee knows what to expect when Auburn opens its season against Washington State on Aug. 31 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He knows Malzahn will be heavily involved in the offense. He saw at Arkansas State last season.
"He did a great job," Lashlee said. "We got along fine. I think it helped that I'd played for him and worked for him. We know each other well enough that it was kind of easy to predict how each other would respond. You still learn some things because it's a new dynamic, but Coach has to be the head coach first. He has to worry about the offense, defense, special teams. Myself and the staff were able to do the game planning.
"Once we get into the season, it's his offense. He's very involved. We were able as a staff and with him to do it together on game day. We didn't have a clue what to expect about how it would work out, but it worked out very well."
Play-calling, Lashlee said, was a team effort last season and will be a team effort again this season.
"We do it together," Lashlee said. "So much of what we do is about being in rhythm and all that. Coach is very involved, and so is everybody else. It's never been about just one guy."
Lashlee said he plans to coach from the field. He started last season in the press box, but when Oregon ran away to a 50-10 lead at halftime, he returned to the sideline. The Red Wolves didn't make what would have been the greatest comeback in college football history, but they scored 24 second-half points in losing 57-34.
"I would anticipate he and I will both be on the field," Lashlee said. "That's how we did it last year, other than the first half of the Oregon game. That very quickly changed. After that, everything went a lot better. I personally like being on the sideline if possible. I like being able to look the quarterback in the eye. That's the No. 1 reason, talk to him, be down there with the whole offense when things are good and things are bad. When you are in the box, you feel very different. You can pick up the phone and talk to a guy on a headset, but it's just not the same."
Wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig is the most likely candidate to work from the press box.
"I think having someone like Dameyune, who has played quarterback and been in the box before," Lashlee s
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:
aid, "if that's the route we go, that helps us."