The former Arizona State offensive coordinator isn’t a full-fledged Malzahn disciple, but he has familiarity with both the Auburn head coach and the program in general after serving on staff during its most recent SEC championship-winning season.
Lindsey will get to work as the new leader of Auburn’s offense and quarterback room, which picked up former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham last month.
But who is Chip Lindsey? He might not be a blockbuster name in the coaching world, but he’s had an impressive rise from high school assistant to SEC coordinator. Here are five key things Auburn fans should know about Malzahn’s newest hire.
1. Chip Lindsey has coached under Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn keeps a tight circle in the coaching profession, especially on the offensive side of the football. So it’s no surprise that his latest hire once worked for him a few years ago.
Lindsey was an offensive analyst for Auburn in 2013, working with Malzahn’s offense in an off-the-field position. After helping the Tigers rebound with a SEC championship and a berth in the final BCS national title game, Lindsey then became Southern Miss’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“Going to Auburn had a huge impact on where I am today,” Lindsey said last April in a video produced by Arizona State. “For me, it was an opportunity to go in at the ground level at a place like Auburn. … We go from 3-9 to basically 12-2, the biggest turnaround in college football history, which was a great experience.”
2. Like Malzahn, Lindsey got his start in high school coaching.
Lindsey and Malzahn share similar backgrounds as high school coaches with up-tempo spread offenses, but Lindsey made his rise mostly in the state of Alabama. He worked at Florence, Springville, Sparkman, Deshler, Hoover and Colbert Heights high schools in Alabama before jumping to Lassiter, Ga., where he coached the late Philip Lutzenkirchen.
After one season as a quarterbacks coach at Troy in the Sun Belt, Lindsey went back to high school coaching as the head coach of Spain Park in the Birmingham, Ala., area. At each stop, he found success installing and running spread offenses.
“In high school, I was more of a spread-you-out guy,” Lindsey told Josh Bean of AL.com in 2015. “You still have to run the football and we still had that element, but you’ve got to get the best athletes you can on the field. … In college, you realize you better be able to run the football. Then, you can have play-action and tempo and the screen game and all those other things.”
3. Lindsey is known as a quarterback developer.
Lindsey’s first college job involved working with the pass-first quarterbacks at Troy, which employed an Air Raid style. In his one and only season with the Trojans, he developed freshman quarterback Corey Robinson into a passer that finished with 3,726 yards, 28 touchdowns, a Sun Belt co-championship and a New Orleans Bowl victory.
At Southern Miss, Lindsey reunited with Nick Mullens, who he coached at Spain Park. (He also coached former Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason at Lassiter.) Mullens improved his numbers as a sophomore in 2014 before exploding onto the scene in 2015 with 4,476 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Eagles made it to the Conference USA title game.
“That’s all he’s done his entire life is develop quarterbacks,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said last summer, per Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.
4. Injuries played a huge role in Lindsey’s underwhelming 2016 at Arizona State.
It’s easy to see why Arizona State hired Lindsey after the 2015 season. Southern Miss went from one of the worst offenses in college football to one that ranked 9th nationally in yards per play and 13th in points per game in just two seasons’ time.
Lindsey didn’t have that same amount of success at Arizona State, though, as the Sun Devils ranked 103rd nationally in yards per play last season. He inherited an offense that lost its quarterback and three of its top four receivers from an underwhelming 6-7 season in 2015.
To make matters worse, Arizona State was down to its fourth-string quarterback by early October of 2016 thanks to a bizarre rash of injuries at the position. To Lindsey’s credit, starter Manny Wilkins played well in Arizona State’s 4-0 start, but the offense lacked much of a rhythm after his injury against USC in Week 5. Be sure to look at Lindsey’s most recent offensive numbers in the proper context.
5. Lindsey’s play-calling style is different from what Auburn had under Malzahn and Lashlee.
Malzahn reportedly won’t take back control of play-calling with this hire. Auburn had success — when it was healthy — under Lashlee’s play-calling in 2016. If Malzahn indeed gives Lindsey total control, expect some key differences in the Tigers’ offense.
First, the run-pass balance won’t be the same. At Southern Miss in 2015, Lindsey’s offense averaged 37.9 passes per game and 35.9 rushes per game. At Arizona State in 2016, it averaged 35.4 passes per game and 39.6 rushes per game. Contrast that with Auburn under Lashlee, which never averaged more than 25.5 passes per game and never averaged fewer than 45.1 rushes per game.
Lindsey’s offenses are usually more balanced, and they leaned pass-heavy in his high school days. But he doesn’t neglect the run — he had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2015 at Southern Miss despite the fact the Eagles ranked 92nd in rushing attempts per game. He’ll build his attack around Auburn’s strengths, and the Tigers appear to have more balance coming their way in 2017 with the arrival of Jarrett Stidham.