As far as new coaches, the hiring of Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn might on the surface imply the Tigers are leaning toward an all-out spread passing attack, though Chizik is not so sure.OK, breathe. Breathe. This is one quote delivered in February to a random Albany beat guy while Chizik happened to be in town for the E. Cleve Wester Scholarship Quail Hunt. It's not really all that different from the same kinds of chicken-soup quotes Chizik (and even Malzahn) have been offering to soothe the spread-hating Auburn soul ever since he was hired. But man ... no point in pretending it doesn't sound exactly like what Tubby was saying in defense of Franklin. Tubby's quotes ended up being not so much the typical media fluff as an indication of some deeply held, serious differences in offensive philosophy that eventually wrecked the entire team. Hearing something so similar come out of the Chiznick's mouth makes me awful nervous. But I think we'll be OK. Here's why:
“Well, there are so many different versions of the spread and what that means,” said Chizik, who won the Frank Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant (defensive coordinator) when Auburn finished the 2004 season undefeated. “I really see us more of a run-the-football type of team, so I’m not sure what the appropriate name of the offense is. Obviously, we’ll do some one-back, two-back things of that nature. It’s still going to be a downhill, physical running game.”
1. As I've detailed before, this conception of Malzahn's spread as being an analog for the Mumme-Franklin Airraid (one perpetuatedis just flat wrong. Tulsa ran more often this past year than Auburn ran under Borges in 2007. It's decisively, unabashedly, a run-to-set-up-the-pass offense. What Malzahn's offense isn't is a "downhill, physical," "two-back" offense, but if what Auburn runs is similar to what Tulsa ran, Auburn will still be a "run-the-football type of team."
2. Given the Tubby vs. Franklin history, the relationship between Chizik and his new OC and how much input Chizik is going to have in the operation of Auburn's offense is going to be a h-o-double-t HOTT topic from now until kickoff this fall. To this point, we've gotten mixed signals--Chizik has made some noises like these about smash-mouth running that Malzahn's offense isn't really built to do, but both he and Malzahn have also stated repeatedly that Malzahn's going to be in total control of the offense. I think the best guess is that we'll wind up somewhere in the middle of those two poles: there's going to be a leeeeetle bit of compromise on Malzahn's end to Chizik's HULK SMASH wishes, but that the end product will still bear a much closer resemblance to what Malzahn ran at Tulsa than Franklin's Spread Eagle did to what he ran at Troy. Until we see it on the field, though, we can expect a whole lot of comments from both sides of both Chizik's and Malzahn's mouths as they to reassure fans that Spread Eagle 2.0 will be both entirely Malzahn's creation and as smash-mouth as Chizik wants it.
3. Whatever happens, Malzahn isn't going to hate the position coaches working under him and have the position coaches working under him hate him. That was pretty much a one-time thing.
So, do I wish Chizik would come out and say things like "We're going to run the ball, but we're going to do it from the spread, getting our talented guys into space and using the entire field to create mismatches, the same way Gus did at Tulsa. He's one of the best in the business, and I trust that he'll find a way to move the ball on the ground, whether that's out of the spread, the Wildcat, a two-back set, whatever. He'll make it work," rather than trying to sell us a bill-of-PHYSICAL! PHYSICAL! PHYSICAL!-goods? Yep.
But I also don't think we ought to throw our hands up and expect a second philosophical tug-of-war between Auburn's head coach and his spread-happy OC, either. (Not that anybody is, mind you--just for argument's sake.) Malzahn came on board for a reason and Chizik hired him for a reason. They both knew what they were getting from the other. They're going to be on the same page, or at the very least we'll have Malzahn on the front of the page and Chizik on the back. Or something. The point is that these are two very, very smart coaches--Chizik wouldn't have put together the staff he's built if he wasn't--and they'll figure out an offense where both of them will be happy, no matter what they're telling the Albany Herald.