Aug 30, 2013
Auburn's Gus Malzahn talks to the crowd at Tiger Talk (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- He was asked his favorite play, and Gus Malzahn knew just how to play to the crowd.
"Philip Lutzenkirchen for a touchdown against Alabama. Y'all remember that?"
Oh, they remembered that, all right. The crowd cheered Malzahn as Auburn radio's Tiger Talk show staged its first public outing since 2010 when the coach was the offensive coordinator who made the calls that beat Alabama. Two games later, the Tigers were the BCS national champs.
Malzahn is the head coach now and was out in public taking questions at Victory Grille.
The Cam Newton-to-Lutzenkirchen play was big, but so was, he said, that fourth-and-3 first-down pass to set up the touchdown. Malzahn remembered that, too. So did the fans. But this Thursday night belonged to the future, which will hit a significant milestone for Malzahn when he coaches his first game as head coach Saturday against Washington State.
He talked about that on air. Off the air, he signed autographs and posed for photos for fans during commercial breaks. But even before that, when he arrived, he made the rounds, going from table to table to shake hands with fans.
"War Eagle and welcome back home," began one question from the audience.
Another person wanted to know about the H-back. The person who asked the question? H-back Jay Prosch.
"When you think about Auburn, you think about Jay Prosch," Malzahn said. "I'm very excited about him."
Somebody wanted to know if his brave play-calling (see, fourth-and-3 against Alabama) would continue now that he's a head coach.
"I'm pretty aggressive as far as play-calling," he deadpanned to laugher.
"We will be very aggressive. When we have a chance to put a fork in somebody, we will definitely do that."
The show was an hour away from football for Malzahn, or at least away from the meeting rooms and the videos and talking with his coaches.
"I haven't slept very well this week, and that tells me I'm back in game-week mode," Malzahn said.
Still, he was relaxed, revealing his favorite game-day chew is Dubble Bubble. "I'll go through about 40 pieces on Saturday," he said.
Of course, fans wanted to know about players and the team.
"It's been an extremely physical fall camp. What I told them, we've got a chance to show what we're about," Malzahn said.
People surely wanted to know about new starting quarterback Nick Marshall. Malzahn said he's done well.
"How's he going to react to the defense? How is he going to react to the crowd? We've got a lot of questions," he said.
He talked about his offense is prepared each week, with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee doing the early work.
"I have a lot of trust in Rhett. He does a lot of game-planning. Late Wednesday or Thursday, I make sure I'm on top of that. We'll do it together." But on Saturday, it's Malzahn who calls the plays.
He said he likes defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson because of his in-game adjustments. "Very sound, very fundamental."
He said offensive lineman Shon Coleman, who has overcome cancer, is ready.
"Shon Coleman has made great progress. In the spring, he showed signs of being healthy. He was battling for right tackle position. It was very close."
On freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson battling for playing time. He's listed as second-team with sophomore Jonathan Wallace.
"Jeremy made it extremely interesting, and that's hard to do for a true freshman. The reps he's had, he's gotten better and better. He has an NFL arm."
Malzahn said former quarterback, now safety, Kiehl Frazier: "There's a very good chance you'll see him in action Saturday."
Malzahn joked his favorite position to coach: is the offensive line.
"They don't have egos. They do exactly what you ask them to do," he said.
Malzahn did exactly what he needed to do on Tiger Talk. He talked up Auburn, and listened to the fans.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine