That challenge extends well beyond Xs and Os.
The Tigers wilted against top competition, getting routed by No. 10 Texas A&M (63-21), No. 6 Georgia (38-0) and No. 2 Alabama (49-0) and also had center Reese Dismukes and freshman quarterback Zeke Pike arrested for public intoxication over the summer. Chizik dismissed Pike from the team.
Search committee member Mac Crawford, a Nashville businessman, said discipline was one of the first topics brought up with Malzahn.
"We talked about it a long time and we were very satisfied with the answers that he gave to us," said Crawford, a former Auburn fullback who was chairman of the board at CVSCaremark and CEO/chairman of CaremarkRx.
Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace said discipline was an issue last season "but that's something that can be fixed."
"Just a matter of us being accountable with each other," said Wallace, who started the final four games. "That's the biggest thing, just looking out for each other and making sure that we're not doing anything that we don't need to be doing."
The Tigers do have big holes to fill, despite returning 18 players who started on offense or defense in the finale against Alabama. They're losing their only consistently productive receiver, Emory Blake, No. 2 rusher Onterio McCalebb and leading tackler Daren Bates. Defensive end Corey Lemonier also hasn't said if he'll return for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.
But Malzahn said it goes beyond talent to attitude.
"We do have some talent, and we have some deficiencies, and what I've got to do is identify the deficiencies and address those immediately and also the mindset," he said. "The mindset and expectations mentally and physically of our players. So we've got some work to do, but I know the areas we need to improve on and we're going to address those."