AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn says he learned a lot in his third season at Auburn.
The 7-6 record, along with word leaking he was becoming more hands-on with position coaching late in the season, has filtered into the spring. Now we know why thanks to a one-on-one interview with ESPN.
“I’m a football coach, not a CEO,” Malzahn told ESPN.com last week. “I probably tried to be too much of a CEO last season. My teams have taken on my personality in the past, and I think we sort of had four or five different personalities last year, all the different coaches’ personalities. That’s on me. That’s my fault. You live and learn, and I learned the hard way last year.”
Five coaches left the program following the 2015 season: defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, secondary coach Travaris Robinson, linebackers coach Lance Thompson, receivers coach Dameyune Craig and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.
Malzahn was visibly much more active on the football field this spring. He spent one-on-one time with quarterback John Franklin III at every open viewing session of practice made available to the media, and even coached the offensive line a time or two. The hands-on approach echoes his words to ESPN.
Auburn has lost nine of its last 11 SEC games, failed to win a conference game at home last season and nearly lost to FCS foe Jacksonville State when the Tigers were ranked No. 6 in the country. The Tigers struggled at quarterback, where Jeremy Johnson was benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White, and injuries changed Malzahn’s plans at running back as Peyton Barber emerged as the surprise 1,000-yard rusher.
“It wasn’t just the quarterback last year,” Malzahn told ESPN.com. “I know the quarterback is the focal point and all that. We just didn’t execute as a whole, and that falls on me. I tried to be a CEO, and I’m a football coach. I can promise you we’ll execute better on offense this year.”