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Fast, faster, fastest: It's Gus Malzahn's football way

Aug 15, 2013


Things happen fast in Auburn practices with Gus Malzahn (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. - Gus Malzahn is mic'd-up, calling for the first team or second team and this quarterback and that quarterback at practice. 

It is such a given that Auburn will be in a hurry this season, now that Malzahn has returned after a one-year hiatus, that the offense is in overdrive in practice just to get ready. 

"Our whole philosophy is we want to make practice almost unrealistic, harder than a game, faster than a game," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee this week "We want quarterbacks, wideouts, people are thinking and having to make decisions quicker than they would in a game and they're more tired than they ever would be in a game. 

"That's our philosophy, to make it extremely hard. Sometimes it's unrealistic but on game day it will slow down." 

Sometimes it does. But Malzahn's offense does go fast on Saturdays. In 2010, the one that resulted in a national championship, Auburn had 39 scoring drives that took less than two minutes. It had 28 scoring drives that were four plays or less. It had another 28 scoring drives that took nine plays or less. 

It also had Cam Newton

But the practice-fast, play-fast philosophy has been Malzahn's way, including his previous seven years as a college coach. That 2010 team ran 948 plays, an Auburn record. The 2009 team ran 914 plays, which is No. 2 all time, and played one less game than the 2010 team. 

His 2011 team ran 828 plays, the eighth-best total. 

So it's an Auburn thing? Hardly. At Tulsa, where he was the offensive coordinator, the Golden Hurricane ran 1,126 plays in 2007 and 1,097 plays in 2008. 

"We have one tempo and we're going to go as fast as we can," Lashlee said. "There are times that we'll slow it down like anyone would, or check and do things. That will be a game plan by game plan basis. I do know this: We want our guys to play extremely fast all the time. They know one speed and the only time they slow down is if we slow them down. That's the way it's been since I've played for Coach, we're going to play fast." 

The fast-paced approach is always looking for "explosive plays," Lashlee said. 

"The first scrimmage this year when we had the quarterbacks go live, we had a couple, but by no means to our standard. The second scrimmage, that was the biggest positive I thought, we had explosive plays. We made explosive plays in the passing game and we had a lot of explosive plays in the run game. 

"I think there's no question that we have athletes, we've just got to make sure we get them in the right spot and give them those chances to make those plays. 

"It's too hard in any league, especially in the SEC, to drive 80 yards just dinking it down the field. You've got to have explosive plays if you want to score points." 

Malzahn was often asked during his first go-around with Auburn how many plays he'd like to run a game. Eighty was the answer. But the scoring drives were often so fast it reduced the play total. 

Good problem to have. 

But don't be fooled. Malzahn can put together a methodical drive, too. In the 2010 season, when Auburn had to drive the length of the field to beat Kentucky, it did it, going 86 yards in 19 plays to set up Wes Byrum's game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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