We're less than 24 hours from Auburn's "big" hire, and the shine has already worn off for me -- I don't really buy the hype.
Don't get me wrong. This might be the best hire they could've possibly made given the current circumstances, but that doesn't say much. After all, who's the best dart thrower at St. Michael's School for the Blind?
There are a number of problems with Malzahn that seem to get glossed over, but they're pretty big ones.
First and foremost: when our seniors were playing high school ball, Malzahn was coaching high school ball. He has only three years of collegiate coaching experience, and two of those years were at Tulsa.
Yes, he was part of a 10-win season at Arkansas in 2006, but keep in mind that he had Darren McFadden in the backfield -- a much bigger weapon than any running back currently playing in the SEC.
His two-year stint at Tulsa has been impressive statistically . . . until you take into account the competition. The Golden Hurricane put up a gaudy number of points against almost all of their opponents. The exceptions in 2008 being the defensive powerhouses of Arkansas, East Carolina, and Houston. 2007 was more of the same, really.
Simply put: Malzahn's offenses have run wild when they have vastly superior talent, but folded when faced with even the slightest resistance.The question I have: where on earth is Auburn going to get vastly superior talent? Out of the backyards of Richt, Meyer, and Saban? I don't think so.
Further, I'm still not convinced that his offensive style will really survive more than a season or two in the SEC. The same was said about Meyer, and while Florida has enjoyed a great deal of success, it would be a bit misleading to suggest that the Gators are running the same offense today as Meyer ran at Utah. Similar? Yes, but not the same at all. That's the big difference between a guy with a lot of experience and Malzahn: adaptability. Malzahn has never coached anywhere long enough to need to change anything.
By the time his team suits up for its second season (if it even takes that long), his offense will be a known quantity in the SEC, and the better defensive coaches will have an antidote. That is, unless the barn can amass a pool of talent big enough to neutralize the defensive game plans. See, e.g., Florida: they're not out-scheming teams, they're out-talenting them.
Of course, that's all assuming that Malzahn even gets to his second season.
Will Auburn actually let him run his offense the way he wants to run it? We know that didn't happen for Tony Franklin at Auburn, but the fans are still buying into the "Frankly was the problem" shtick: "Tony Franklin [Malzahn] ain't. This guy is the real deal . . ."
I have some bad news for Mr. Coulter: Franklin was the real deal, too. In fact, Auburn has made firing "real deal" offensive coordinators its calling-card.
Again, I don't know that there was a better hire on the board for Auburn, but this alone is not reason for "optimism". After all: when was the last time you saw a team with a mediocre head coach and some hot-shot assistants tear up a major conference?