The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 17, 2013

Malzahn: Hurry-up offense concerns 'a joke'

By Jonathan Deal

Hoover — Gus Malzahn likes to do things fast. The new Auburn head coach runs his offense at an up-tempo pace and when handling questions from the media Wednesday, Malzahn whizzed through those in similar fashion.

The first-year head coach was upbeat about bringing his innovative offense back to the Plains.

“Our goal is to play faster than anybody in college football,” said Malzahn. “We feel like, if you can execute our offense at a fast pace, it’s a big advantage. So we’ll be striving for that.”

Much was made about the dangers of the hurry-up offense leading into Media Days. Several coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’s Bret Bielema raised concerns about players getting injured due to fatigue.

“When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was a joke,” said Malzahn. “As far as health or safety issues, that’s like saying the defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down because they’re a little fatigued and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield.”

Malzahn went further, saying rule changes should be applied to defenders faking injuries to slow down hurry-up offenses.

“If you’re going to look at rule changes, officials, we need to look at the guys on defense that are faking injuries to slow down these pace teams,” he said. “That's where college football’s going. You see more and more teams using pace. I think you’ll see it more and more at the next level also.”

Taking the stage after Malzahn, Bielema countered Malzahn’s argument.

“Well, I’m not a comedian. Everything I say is something I truly believe in,” Bielema said.

QB battle

A hot topic Wednesday was the quarterback battle at Auburn. Four players — Kiehl Frazier, Jeremy Johnson, Nick Marshall and Jonathan Wallace — will battle for the starting position this fall.

“Anytime you’re going to have four guys, that’s definitely a concern. I felt very strong we knew about the two guys in spring, but I wanted to give those two new guys a fair chance,” said Malzahn. “We’ll be doing things a little bit different in fall camp early, and hopefully one of those guys will emerge sooner rather than later.”

Malzahn inherits a team that went 3-9 running a pro-style offense and will have to adjust to his two-back, hurry-up offense. But that might not be as difficult as it sounds as Malzahn recruited nearly two-thirds of the current roster while a coordinator at Auburn.

“A lot of our players, they have background on me,” he said. “They know a lot about me. They know our expectations. Kind of like I said, our focus is to get our edge back. That’s what we’re going to continue to focus on.”