Multiple reports from the Yellowhammer State say that Auburn’s next head coach will be… Gus Malzahn, the Tigers’ former offensive coordinator. Malzahn just led Arkansas State to a 9-3 record and the Sun Belt Conference championship in his first year as a collegiate head coach.
While Malzahn’s name had been tied to the Auburn job from the moment Gene Chizik was nuked, there was a strange cloud of silence surrounding his actual interview with AD Jay Jacobs and his three-man search committee. We heard from multiple AU sources that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart had interviewed well. We heard completely different takes on Bobby Petrino.
But we couldn’t get the two AU sources we spoke to — one last night, one this morning — to say much of anything about Malzahn’s sit-down. While we had come to expect Auburn to make a clean break from the immediate Gene Chizik past, the silence surrounding Malzahn’s interview certainly raised our suspicions that he might just land the job.
Early on in the process, we suggested that he and Petrino would be the two most likely men to land the AU job. Petrino because he was desperate, Malzahn because he knew the lay of the land on the Plains. If NCAA snoops are truly sniffing around Auburn, Malzahn likely knows what the issues are and his return suggests he doesn’t believe they’ll be too serious. An outsider might not be so trusting considering the fact that the NCAA hammer dropped harder than expected at Ohio State, Miami, North Carolina, and Penn State when their recent hires arrived on those campuses.
Malzahn’s spread offense at Auburn was ranked fourth in the conference in total offense in 2009 (versus SEC foes only), second in 2010, and then seventh in 2011. Without him, Auburn finished dead-last in the SEC versus conference foes in total offense this past season.