July 11, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - They came from far and near when first-year Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn called. Nine assistants came together to help lead Auburn's program back toward the top of the Southeastern Conference.
They came from Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina. All brought SEC experience, many of them lots of SEC experience. And with that experience they bring their own philosophies of the game, of what it takes for Auburn to be a contender again.
On the night Malzahn was introduced as Auburn's head coach, he made it clear what kinds of assistant coaches wanted. He said character would be crucial, and the ability to recruit. And he knew before hired the first one what he wanted to see on the field.
"We will have a fast-paced offense," Malzahn, who as offensive coordinator helped Auburn win the 2010 national championship, said that night. "I believe this day and time it is a great advantage. We will run the football, and that will be our staple. We are a run, play-action team. We will have a defense that is attacking. These days, with all these spread offenses and the things they do, you have to have a multiple defense. We will be attacking in all areas.
"It will be fun for our fans, and we will get this thing turned around. My goal is get this thing turned around and play championship football like Auburn expects."
Malzahn and his staff started that process in the offseason, then in spring practice. They convinced players that they could move on from last season's 3-9 record.
Senior Malzahn and his coaches have made them believe again in Auburn football and all its tradition.
"I see a lot of guys knowing success is coming," Ford said. "That collectively changes a lot of the mentalities. I remember the national championship year. When we started winning, a lot of guys wanted to play. I see a lot of guys looking forward and saying `When we start winning, I want to be contributing, so I need to put in the work now.'
"I see a different sense of urgency with the team. We don't want a year like last year. We know what losing feels like."
In just more than three weeks, Auburn's coaches and players will be on the field again as the 2013 Tigers begin preparations for a season that begins Aug. 31 against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here, in their own words, are some of their thoughts and beliefs:
Rhett Lashlee, OC/QB
Last job: Arkansas State, OC/QB
"You have to constantly improve and find ways to take what you do and maybe do it better. There will be things people probably haven't seen before. But as far as the playing up-tempo, no-huddle, shotgun probably 95 percent of the time, that's what we do.
Ellis Johnson, DC/LB
Last job: Southern Mississippi, HC
"The offensive guys, with the way college football rules are right now, they have the chalk. We've had to come up with an answer for it. I've gone to smaller, more mobile, more explosive front people, especially on the outside, than we used to play with. As a result, we play them more off the edge. We don't play them head-up trying to take on blocks all the time. We try to play them more on the edge, trying to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage, be more disruptive against the run and outnumber the run game as opposed to just physically smush it."
J.B. Grimes, OL
Last job: Arkansas State, OL
"I always tell people this: Are they big enough? Are they strong enough? Are they quick enough? Are they balanced enough? Are they smart enough? Do they have character? Are they tough? Those are seven criteria we look for in an offensive lineman, but there are two of them you cannot do without. You must have character and you must be tough. Then you take any two other of the other tangible characteristics and you'll have a kid with a chance to be a good player in the Southeastern Conference. Obviously, if you have all seven of them, then you have a guy that can really make you a good coach."
Tim Horton, RB
Last job: Arkansas, RB/RC
"Let's just worry about the things we can control. We can control working hard. We can control our attitude. Let's take it one day at a time and worry about the Tigers.
Dameyune Craig, WR/Co-OC
Last job: Florida State, QB/RC
"Something we always hung our hat (as an Auburn player) was we outworked everybody. We felt like going into a game that nobody had worked harder than we had in the offseason or during the week, and we felt good about the game. That's what we need to get back. My goal is to work these guys as hard as I can so, when they step on that field, you feel like you are prepared because you've outworked everybody you are going to face."
Rodney Garner, DL/RC/Assoc. HC
Last job: Georgia, DL/RC/Asst. HC
"We are going to do it the right way, with hard work, with discipline. We are going to have an unbelievable work ethic, pride. It's going to mean something."
Charlie Harbison, S/Co-DC
Last job: Clemson, DB/Co-DC
"I want kids to be men. One thing about me is I'm going to treat every kid I coach like he was my own. What you speak, they have to see in you. I tell guys they need to be humble."
Melvin Smith, CB
Last job: Mississippi State, CB
"I try to teach my corners to play within the scheme of what we're doing. If it calls for corner support, we're going to be in attack mode. I'm not one of these guys that believes in the cover corner. I believe the corner is a guy that can do a lot of things."
Scott Fountain, TE/HB/ST
Last job: Auburn, director of player personnel
"What I'd like to be is be the best I can be at special teams, best at tight ends and H-backs. I feel like we can get ourselves back to a championship level, play in the SEC Championship Game and hopefully have the opportunity to play in the big game again."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: