AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is aware of the increasing hype that surrounds his Auburn football team heading into the 2017 season.
His philosophy on the outside buzz is simple — the Tigers don’t need to worry about things they can’t change. But what’s happening inside his program has him excited for the upcoming campaign.
“Outside we can’t control, but I will tell you this: internally, there’s a lot of excitement,” Malzahn said Monday. “And really, that’s what matters. I know our offensive players are excited, our quarterbacks are and I am, too. I’m really looking forward to this year.”
Malzahn’s words Monday in the SEC coaches teleconference echo his message since the end of spring camp. Excitement levels are high for Malzahn, who heads into a critical 2017 campaign after going 0-6 against Georgia and Alabama in the past three seasons.
“The state of our program is in as good of shape as any time I’ve been here,” Malzahn told the team’s website earlier this month. “A lot of excitement. I know our players are excited. I know our coaches are excited. And when that happens, the head coach gets excited for next fall.”
A lot of the increased hype for Auburn football this offseason stems from the arrivals of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Malzahn’s main reasoning behind the move to bring in Lindsey was a need for balance. The Tigers have had several great rushing attacks under him, but the lack of a dynamic passing attack hurt them in 2016.
Lindsey brings experience as a passing-oriented coordinator. It also helped that Lindsey was an Auburn analyst in 2013 — the Tigers’ only double-digit-win season under Malzahn.
“I trust him,” Malzahn said. “I know a lot about him. Our philosophies are very similar, and he is a very good quarterback developer … We have most of our players coming back, we ran the football extremely well last year and just needed to provide some balance. That’s why I thought he was the perfect fit for that.”
Malzahn said Lindsey established that balance in spring ball as Stidham went through his first camp since transferring from Baylor. That success extended to the defense as well.
“We really accomplished all the goals we set out to,” Malzahn said. “We were very physical, we stayed healthy. I think defensively, we got the things done that we needed to. Offensively, with the new coordinator coming in, I think Chip did a wonderful job.
“I think our players did a good job responding to him. They had a really good feel for him and what we’re doing moving forward.”
Malzahn knows he can’t control the outside noise, but he won’t run away from it. Malzahn made that clear after the Tigers’ spring game, when Stidham put up an MVP-caliber first half with his passing.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Malzahn said. “When your players play good, I think it’s a good thing. It ain’t a bad thing.”