Tag Archives: Gus Malzahn

With QB a priority, Vols in battle for 5-star Torrance Gibson

Torrance Gibson (photo by 247Sports, a KNS partner)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Riley Ferguson‘s departure has highlighted Tennessee’s need for another quarterback in the Class of 2015.

There are few bigger targets than dual-threat quarterback Torrance GibsonAuburn and Tennessee are leading the seven-team race for his signature. Helpfully, Gibson has been tweeting and blogging about the recruiting process.

247Sports recruiting analyst Ryan Callahan chatted about Gibson’s visit to Auburn in today’s installment of GVX Audio. Gibson could visit Tennessee as soon as this weekend, but Callahan said the race should continue for some time.

The Vols already have Jauan Jennings in the fold. He’s a four-star athlete from Murfreesboro who is being recruited by most schools as a quarterback. Many think he could also be an elite college safety.

SEC meetings in Destin get underway today

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — SEC coaches are in Destin, Fla., this week for the league’s annual spring meeting.

Coaches have already done plenty of meeting with SEC commissioner Mike Slive in recent months, so the agenda should be light this week.

One issue in particular has already been resolved. Let’s let Les Miles tell it:

Miles, of course, was among the coaches displeased by the SEC’s decision to maintain its current 8-game format. LSU is stuck with Florida as its permanent cross-divisional opponent each season.

So what is on the agenda this week, aside from plenty of time on the beach or the golf course? Seth Emerson has a good summary here.

The big buzzword right now is autonomy. The five football power conferences are flexing their muscles and the NCAA appears willing to relinquish some control to those programs (like the SEC) that are on a different revenue plane than their peers.

There could also be some continued chatter over rules. Remember the Bret Bielema-Gus Malzahn tiff? Let’s hope they save some fighting words for SEC Media Days in July.

Butch Jones on 10-second rule: ‘Obviously I’m not for that’

Butch Jones at practice in 2013 (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said a push to slow down hurry-up offenses is rooted more in coaches’ “personal preference” than concern for player safety.

“I think it’s the equivalent of telling a basketball team you can’t full-court press,” Jones said. “If we want to talk about the overall health, then let’s start limiting blitzes. You talk about protecting players, you give the defense more time to disguise, disrupt the quarterback?”

Jones made the comments on a Friday morning appearance on Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone.

Jones was in Nashville Thursday for a high school clinic and had to stay overnight after his flight was nixed by bad weather. He’ll be back there again on Saturday for the Nashville Sports Fest.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema who has seemingly led the public campaign against hurry-up, no-huddle offenses like those employed at Auburn and Oregon (and increasingly elsewhere) raised the stakes in the debate this week.

That’s unlikely to satisfy Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, or Jones, who also said he wanted to see real data on the subject. Although Tennessee’s offense is no-huddle, it hasn’t quite reached the warp-speed level of Auburn. But Jones likes to control the game’s tempo, so it’s likely the offense will speed up as the offense gets better.

“I really look forward to really seeing what type of evidence there is in terms of making the game safer. I’m all for (making the game safer). But I don’t think that’s the avenue to do that,” Jones said.

In 2013, Jones openly predicted the eventual demise of the kickoff, which is still a controversial subject with many coaches. So he’s willing to entertain even radical ideas for making the game safer. But he doesn’t think this proposed rule change would do so.

“I don’t think it comes down to our overall health of our game. I think it comes down to each coach’s personal preference,” he said. “Everything we do is to err on the side of player safety. We need to talk about the punt return and the kickoff return and the kickoff, not how fast we’re going on offense. So obviously I’m not for that (rule change).”

Auburn beat writer Q&A: The view from the Plains

Gus Malzahn

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn calls out to his team in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. LSU won 35-21. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A year ago, Auburn beat writers were preparing themselves for a possible coaching search as the Tigers limped to a winless SEC season.

Today Auburn is one of the most impressive stories in college football and coach Gus Malzahn is a possible coach of the year candidate.

The Vols (4-5, 1-4 SEC) play No. 7 Auburn (8-1, 4-1) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, noon).

We asked Auburn beat writer Joel Erickson a few questions about the Tigers. You can follow Joel on Twitter and read his coverage here.

1. How surprising is Auburn’s 8-1 record and why do you think Gus Malzahn has been able to have so much success in Year 1?

Pretty surprising, particularly after the way the Tigers finished in their final three SEC games of 2012. In those games, against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, Auburn allowed touchdowns on 16 of 18 first-half possessions, and a closer look at some of the stats reveals just how different it’s been. For example, Auburn is averaging more than double its rushing output from last season, the Tigers’ quarterbacks are currently 65 spots higher in pass efficiency, the defense is allowing 8.2 points per game less than the 2012 version and the ability to close in the fourth quarter has absolutely flip-flopped. For what it’s worth, most people expected Auburn to take some small steps before taking the big ones.

Malzahn started things off by hiring an experienced, well-regarded staff with a lot of SEC experience, and the impact of the 2013 signing class has been impressive. Quarterback Nick Marshall has been the breakout player so far, but the Tigers also signed a lot of players — running back Cameron Artis-Payne, wide receiver Marcus Davis, defensive linemen Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams, among others — who have played key rotational roles and come up big in key moments. Malzahn has also taken a relatively hard line on discipline, a problem for the previous team, and the staff has done a good job of identifying playmakers who were either pushed to the backburner by the previous staff (hybrid Robenson Therezie) or hadn’t made much of an impact yet (wide receiver Sammie Coates, left guard Alex Kozan, linebacker Kris Frost).

2. Auburn only threw like two passes last week. What’s with that?

In a couple of SEC games, Auburn has focused on its running game as a way to get the defense rest after the opposing team churns out yardage and keeps that unit on the field. Arkansas ran 46 plays in the first half compared to just 22 for Auburn, and the time of possession was wildly in the Razorbacks’ favor. With that in mind, Auburn tried to stick to the ground to even that out a little bit — although the Tigers scored too quickly to flip the time discrepancy — and then used the running game in the second half to salt it away. What’s been interesting this season is that Auburn has regularly been able to run the ball against stacked eight and nine-man fronts, and when the Tigers have been able to do that, Malzahn has been perfectly comfortable sticking to the ground game.

3. What is Auburn’s biggest weakness and how successful have opponents been in exploiting it?

Auburn has had some trouble against offenses that run a power rushing attack, for two reasons. One, the Tigers have had trouble with missed assignments, poor angles and missed gaps in the running game, and two, because those kinds of offenses can keep Auburn’s offense off the field. LSU, obviously, had plenty of success in a first quarter that proved to be the difference in the game, Mississippi State took a 20-17 lead into the final two minutes and Arkansas could have made things interesting if the Razorbacks hadn’t missed on two red-zone opportunities in the first half. Passing offenses have picked up yards against Auburn, but the Tigers tend to string out those types of opponents and force mistakes.

4. Is Auburn’s success sustainable? In other words, could you see Auburn returning to where it was before the disaster in 2012 — consistently competing at the top of the SEC West?

I think it is. Malzahn’s obviously got a proven offensive track record, and in Ellis Johnson, he’s found a defensive leader who isn’t likely to leave any time soon. Beyond that, Malzahn brought in some heavy recruiting muscle in assistants Dameyune Craig, Rodney Garner and Tim Horton, and the coaching staff has already shown a good eye for the kind of talent that will fit well in the scheme.

5. What’s your prediction for the game and why?

I picked Auburn over Tennessee 31-17, mainly because the Volunteers, although great at home, seem to be a bad matchup for what the Tigers do best. Auburn is the SEC’s best rushing offense, and Tennessee has struggled against those kinds of teams. In addition, Auburn has a penchant for magnifying the mistakes of quarterbacks, and Joshua Dobbs is still making only his second start.

Tennessee’s Tommy Thigpen: Auburn has rebounded because of dynamic QB, return of Gus Malzahn (with video)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen spent four years as an assistant at Auburn before joining Butch Jones‘ staff last December.

He was part of a national championship team in 2010 and a team in 2012 that went 0-8 in the SEC.

Auburn (8-1, 4-1 SEC) has bounced back quickly. The Tigers play Tennessee (4-5, 1-4) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, noon).

What happened between 2012 and today? The Tigers once again have a dynamic quarterback and Gus Malzahn.

“When Gus was there, we won 8 games every year, plus a national championship. They were scoring points. That was the theme,” Thigpen said.

Malzahn left after the 2011 season for a one-year stint as head coach at Arkansas State.

Thigpen on the 2012 season:

“Gus has always had success when he’s been (at Auburn)….Those kids, it’s not like they couldn’t play. We played Clemson until the last minute. We played Mississippi State to the last second. We played LSU until the last second. (In 2013), they got a lot of success really early and their kids started to believe. Last year, we fell off track and things went the other way.”

Thigpen on Auburn in 2013:

“They’ve got a dynamic quarterback and guys have rallied around him. It’s like any team, if you’ve got a dynamic quarterback, you’re going to win a lot of football games.”

Thigpen on whether he’s surprised by Auburn’s start:

“They finished top 5,6 (in recruiting) every year. So the personnel is there.”

Thigpen on Cam Newton:

“He was one of the dynamic players and best character kids I’ve ever been around.”

Thigpen on whether this game will be tough for him:

“I came to Tennessee to win ballgames. That’s our No. 1 goal.”

Butch Jones to take spin through ESPN ‘car wash’ on Tuesday

Butch Jones, 2013 SEC Media Days

Butch Jones speaks at SEC Media Days (AP photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones will be one of six SEC coaches to go through the ESPN “car wash” on Tuesday.

The car wash is a metaphor — we think — for the whirlwind of interviews that coaches go through for various shows while spending the day at the network’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters.

Jones will be joined by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida’s Will Muschamp, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops.

ESPN said the coaches could appear on College Football Live, SportsCenter, First Take and Highly Questionable on television, and SVP & Russillo, The Herd, Coach and Company and SportsCenter Tonight on radio. The coaches may also do ESPN.com chats or podcasts.

ESPN had exclusive access to coaches during last week’s SEC Media Days, so it’s unclear what might be asked just a few days later.

One festering argument leftover from last week might be the mini-feud between Malzahn and Bielema over fast-paced offenses.

Bielema believes fast-paced offenses increase the risk of player injuries; Malzahn was dismissive of that idea.

Here’s Jones’ complete schedule, provided by UT. Some of the segments will air or be published later.

11 a.m. — ESPN.com Chat – LIVE

11:25 a.m. — College GameDay

12:40 p.m. —  High Questionable (airing at 4 p.m. on ESPN2)

1:15 p.m. — Recruiting Nation

1:30 p.m. — Podcast – ESPNU CFB with Ivan Maisel

2 p.m. — College Football Live (airing at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN)

2:25 p.m. — CFB Insider with Travis Haney

2:40 p.m. — SportsCenter – LIVE on ESPNews

3:40 p.m. — Digital Media

SEC Media Days: Coaches tussle over safety of fast-paced offenses

HOOVER, Alabama — When Gus Malzahn first heard that some coaches believed his hurry-up, no-huddle offense was unsafe for players, he thought it was sarcasm.

“To be honest with you, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

When that comment was relayed to new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, things got interesting in a hurry.

Raising his voice and speaking forcefully, Bielema said he was convinced that forcing players to remain on the field for multiple snaps without rest increasing the risk of serious injury.

“The personal safety of my players is paramount,” Bielema said. “It’s not a joke to me.”

Auburn’s first-year coach has built his career upon the hurry-up offense, beginning as an innovative high school coach in Arkansas.

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