Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn knows the SEC will be better prepared for his team and his offense than it was a year ago. C.J. Uzomah says he doesn’t think it will matter.
“There are enough tricks in the bag that nobody should be able to adjust for 50 years,” said Uzomah, a senior tight end for the Tigers. Malzahn “is a football genius. That gives us confidence. We can just go out there and play football and have fun with it.”
Auburn had a lot of fun in Malzahn’s first season, finishing 12-2 and winning the SEC championship before falling 34-31 to Florida State in the BCS national title game. It did all that on the strength of Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense, which he has been perfecting since he started coaching at Hughes High School in Arkansas in 1992.
The Tigers led the nation in rushing offense with 328.3 yards per game. They finished No. 11 in the country in total offense (501.3 yards per game) and No. 12 in scoring (39.5 points per game).
“I would call it the quadruple option,” Auburn defensive lineman Gabe Wright said. “Coach Malzahn has so much going on. There will be a play I think I am free and somebody is coming to blindside me and one play I will think he’s coming to blindside me and (the blocker) will roll around me and (quarterback Nick Marshall) takes off behind him. I am glad it is something I don’t have to defend week in and week out.”
South Carolina will have to defend it this year as the Tigers come back on the schedule after a two-year break. South Carolina played Auburn three times in 2010 and 2011. In two of those meetings, Malzahn was the Tigers offensive coordinator and Auburn averaged 45.5 points in those games.
“I think if you look around the country, a lot of college teams are playing fast,” Malzahn said. “Really if you look at the high school teams, the majority of the high school teams around the country are spreading it out, playing fast. You can look at the NFL, with Chip Kelly, the success he's had. I just think that's where the game's going.”
The Tigers spent the spring trying to bring more balance to their offense. Their 173 yards per game through the air last year ranked 106th in the nation. Quarterback Nick Marshall (who did not represent Auburn here this week after being cited last week for marijuana possession) returns for his second season in the offense, which should help the passing attack.
“We feel like we have some receivers that can stretch the field and make some plays,” Malzahn said. “We worked extremely hard to get more balanced. Hopefully, that will carry over to the fall.”
The Tigers return nine starters on offense, running back Tre Mason being the most notable loss, and six on defense.
“Last year we weren't on anybody's radar,” Malzahn said. “We snuck up on a lot of people. This year we know we're going to be circled. We talked about that with our players. But at the same time I feel like that's good pressure. We've got our program back to where it should be, where people, you know, have us circled.”
Auburn will be seeking to become the SEC’s first back-to-back champion since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998.
“That's been a while. I think that says it all,” Malzahn said. “That's how hard it is to repeat in our league. There's so many great teams. That is a goal of ours, but we do understand how hard it will be.”