July 24, 2013
Gus Malzahn, left, talks football with Chirs Fowler on ESPN's SportsCenter (Todd Van Emst)
By Charles Goldberg
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Steve Spurrier walked into the studio, spotted a kindred soul and sat down to talk football.
Spurrier and Gus Malzahn, head coaches, shared the College Football Live set Tuesday to discuss the finer points of offense on a hectic day at ESPN headquarters.
"I bet this is the first time you interviewed two play-callers together," Spurrier told host Joe Tessitore after the impromptu get-together.
Then off went Malzahn, the Auburn head coach, to another setting. Off went Spurrier, the South Carolina head coach, to another interview. Then in came Florida coach Will Muschamp just to say hello to the Auburn contingent. Crazy? It was the ESPN Car Wash, where 14 conference coaches were run through the ringer over a two-day period. Six coaches made the rounds Tuesday, each doing 10 interviews.
Malzahn was asked on television, radio, Internet chats and on podcasts about his offense (this just in to ESPN: he likes to go fast) and about defenses that have to catch their breath to keep up (call timeouts, reasoned the coach.)
In between, and on the plane, Malzahn was on the phone, talking to his coaches about the players who are less than two weeks way from starting fall practice; or he was going through papers about his team.
Except when he was checking the radar for storms on the way back in his role as an amateur meteorologist and full-time decision-maker.
"I may have to make the call here," he said.
The pilots had the final vote, and the plane landed in Birmingham because there were all sorts of radar colors on top of Auburn.
It seems as if the day began on the set of Recruiting Nation, moved to ESPN radio, went down the hall or maybe upstairs, downstairs or to a different building to College GameDay, over to an ESPNU podcast, over to SportsCenter, over to College Football Live and then something, something, something in a nifty 4 1/2 hours.
Some of the highlights in a reasonable order:
At Recruiting Nation, Malzahn said he was an old-school guy when it came to offers to high school players, saying Auburn doesn't offer a lot of players, as some schools do, but instead offers players he has identified who can actually help.
"We're very specific in what we're looking for," he said.
On ESPN Radio, he acknowledged Auburn has "to close the gap" on Alabama. But, "we're not going to worry about last year. We're moving forward."
But with who? Who's the quarterback?
"We don't know who our quarterback is," but promised he'll give all four of his contenders a chance to win the job, the sooner the better.
Off to College GameDay, where the first order of business was to read a promo for the new SEC Network that is more than a year away, and then to discuss fight songs, visors and Halloween costumes.
What's his favorite trick play? "When we hide a little guy behind the line of scrimmage." He did it in 2007, and, oops, beat No. 2 Auburn when he was at Arkansas.
That was then. Now, he's back in Auburn after serving as the offensive coordinator from 2009-11.
"I think it's a big advantage because I recruited these guys for this offense," he said on an ESPN Podcast.
And as far as returning to Auburn, he said "in some ways, it felt like I was never gone. That's how comfortable it was."
And how comfortable he was on the SportsCenter set, and how he's happy he's not a first-year coach in the SEC.
"It's great having experience in this league. Every week it's 'wow.'"
Spurrier and Malzahn then presented a united front for offenses of your choice.
"There are all kinds of way to win a football game," said Spurrier, who has done just that.
"Pace," said Malzahn, "is where the game is going.
Got an ESPN College Football app?
"Our goal is to play faster than anybody in college football," he said.
And then to go home, dodging storm clouds along the way.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine