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Experienced staff will have Tigers ready to pounce on SEC opponents

Published 11:55am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

By Andy Graham

When Gus Malzahn was hired on Dec. 4 to be Auburn University’s 26th head football coach, he vowed to be patient and thorough when it came to hiring assistant coaches.
Malzahn was certainly true to his word adding the final piece to his coaching staff puzzle last Friday on Jan. 4.
It took one month to the day, but when all the dust settled I have to say I’m very impressed with Auburn’s new coaching staff.
In all fairness, I was also very impressed with the initial staff Gene Chizik put together, but there are some significant differences this time around.
Two things stand out about Coach Malzahn’s staff more than anything else: experience and recruiting prowess.
I don’t think anyone could argue that Gene Chizik assembled a group of dynamic recruiters, but in the end a serious lack in the development of players led to their downfall.
Initially, I just hoped Coach Malzahn could assemble a staff of better coaches and I was willing to sacrifice some of the high level recruiting.
I honestly didn’t foresee Malzahn putting together a group to rival the previous staff in that area. I was wrong.
Gus was not only able to match the recruiting talent, but I believe he may actually have surpassed it.
Malzahn has been able to cherry pick the best recruiter (and recruiting coordinator) from Georgia, Florida State and Arkansas by hiring Rodney Garner, Dameyune Craig and Tim Horton.
He also hired Charlie Harbison from Clemson and Melvin Smith from Mississippi State who were considered one of the top recruiters at their respective schools.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football program and a school must bring in superior talent to consistently complete at the highest level.
However, a roster full of potential talent means nothing unless that talent is developed as the Tigers painfully demonstrated in 2012.
Hopefully, this is where the current staff and the previous staff will draw their distinction.
Gus Malzahn has surrounded himself with an enormous amount of experience and more particularly SEC experience.
If a man can’t coach, he won’t last long in this league.
There’s a reason some guys have been around longer than others.
On the defensive side of the ball, Auburn now has 68 years of experience coaching in the SEC.
It’s considerably less on offense and special teams with 21 years of experience (including Malzahn) in the league, but that’s still far removed from the previous regime.
Gene Chizik’s first staff had 18 years of SEC experience combined including the three years he spent at Auburn as defensive coordinator.
On the surface at least, the Tigers seem to have upgraded in recruiting and player development as well.
On paper, Gus Malzahn has put together an exceptional group of coaches, but unfortunately football isn’t played on paper.
Unity in the coaching staff is absolutely essential and one never knows how different personalities are going to mesh.
Malzahn may go on to unprecedented success or he may very well fall flat on his face.
I can’t say for sure either way right now, but I can say with relative assurance that he has put Auburn football in a position to succeed.
That’s enough for me… for now.
Graham is a columnist for The Outlook