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Gus Malzahn sets stage for debut as Auburn's head coach

Aug 31, 2013

Gus Malzahn teaching blocking, tackling and attitude (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn will be calling the plays. You can count on that. 

But Auburn's new head coach can't do everything when the Tigers open the season against Washington State at 6 tonight in Jordan-Hare Stadium. He'll rely on a lot of others to help get through game day. It'll go something like this: 

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and secondary coach Melvin Smith will in a booth near the press box setting the defense. Receivers coach, and former Auburn quarterback, Dameyune Craig will be there as well, keeping an eye on Washington State's secondary. 

Then there's offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. He'll be on the sidelines with Malzahn. 

"He'll take care of all the offensive adjustments," Malzahn said. 

Malzahn hasn't hinted what he has in store, careful not to even say whether he has his early plays scripted. 

But, he conceded, "I like to think ahead." 

Malzahn will, as head coach, will have veto power on everything. 

"I'll have a very good visual what's going on defensively and with the special teams, and will be able to make all the calls we need to, game-management wise," he said. The specifics, especially on defense, will be handled by Johnson. 

Auburn has practiced for a month for this moment, but the Tigers have specifically practiced the last two weeks on what they'll do on game day.  Malzahn doesn't want any surprises, from where they'll stand on the sidelines, to what they'll do on third-and-2. 

Still, there are unknowns for a new coach, a new quarterback in Nick Marshall and for a team that is looking to rebound. 

"When you have a different quarterback, and he hasn't gone through spring..." Malzahn said. "We've got some information on him, and he's earned the job, but it's matter of how does he react to another defense? How does he react to the crowd? There are a lot of unknowns right now. But I'm really looking forward to how he plays. But I really should say all of our guys  how they'll react." 

Malzahn says he can find comfort in the team's attitude. 

"Everybody says, 'Who's your leaders?' When I've had a chance to be a part of really good teams, there are a lot of leaders. Everybody buys in to what you're doing," he said. "Your leaders are an extension of your coaches. I've really felt like our guys have bought in; and I think our coaches have done a really good job earning our players' trust. 

"Our theme this year for players and our coaches is we're all together, and we're going to stay together through the good, bad and in between. That's really going to be the key to our success. That's what I've been saying to our fans: We're in this thing together, we're going to get this thing turned around, and we're going to do it together."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter at . You'll find plenty of live updates there this football Saturday.



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