By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - Gus Malzahn was Auburn's new offensive coordinator in 2009 when Big Cat Weekend debuted.
"On the front end, we were just wanting a unique weekend that was different than any other place in college football. That's what we came up with," Malzahn said. "It's been that way ever since. Each year it gathers more and more momentum. The elite of the elite come on this weekend."
As many as 40 top prospects are heading to the Plains for the eighth Big Cat Weekend.
Malzahn, who signed a contract extension prior to the 2015 season, says Big Cat is a big part of Auburn's recruiting success.
"It's been very vital to each recruiting class," he says. "A lot of our current players have gone through Big Cat. It's always a weekend that we really look forward to."
For a program, and a university, that prides itself on family, Big Cat Weekend is a chance for Auburn to reinforce that feeling.
"Everybody talks about facilities and all that. That's great for the first impression. These kids have seen it before," said Patrick Suddes, Auburn's director of player personnel. "They've seen multiple facilities at different schools.
"It's about - this is the main key here -- this is the Auburn Family. The relationships. These parents know that when they drop off their son here to come to school and play football, they're in great hands with Coach Malzahn and the coaching staff. They're going to treat them like they're their own son.
"The top of the top, the best at their positions," Suddes said. "A lot of these guys have been here multiple times. This is more of a laid-back, get around our players, get around our coaching staff. Eat some good food. Do some fun games, and just really kick back and relax."
Big Cat Weekend attendees have contributed to SEC Championships in 2010 and 2013, along with the 2010 National Championship.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer