Malzahn swiftly hires vet, protege as coordinators


Malzahn swiftly hires vet, protege as coordinators

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was flanked by his fresh-faced protege, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and silver-haired defensive boss Ellis Johnson on Friday.

He introduced the 29-year-old Lashlee and 60-year-old Johnson at a news conference three days after his hiring. Lashlee will make $350,000 a year while Johnson received an $800,000 salary, though Auburn hasn't released the lengths of their deals or other terms.

Lashlee's hire seemed almost a foregone conclusion.

He spent three years as Malzahn's quarterback at Shiloh Christian High School in Arkansas and has worked under him in the prep ranks and at three different colleges, including their initial stop in Auburn.

``He's one of the bright, young and up-and-coming offensive minds in all of college football,'' Malzahn said. ``He's been my right-hand man at three different stops in college. At Arkansas he was my right-hand man. I relied on him a lot here at Auburn. He deserves a lot of the credit for our offensive success that we had and of course this past year at Arkansas State, just did a phenomenal job. I know exactly what I'm getting.

``He's going to give me the flexibility to help with the offense and at the same time be a head coach and do the things that head coach has to do.''

Malzahn said the two will collaborate on play calling duties in an offense built upon a relentlessly fast tempo and a style that is heavy on the run and play-action passes. It worked well enough in 2010 that the Tigers won a national title and quarterback Cam Newton took the Heisman Trophy. Lashlee spent last season as Malzahn's offensive coordinator at Arkansas State after a year running the offense for FCS team Samford.

``Our identity as an offense will be to play fast and physical,'' Lashlee said. ``That will be ingrained in our guys from Day One. You can't have one without the other. We will play extremely fast and we want to be very physical at every position.

``We'll have a physical downhill running game, we'll also be explosive in the passing game and be very aggressive taking vertical shots down the field and stretching the field horizontally. That's our philosophy. We want to make teams defend the whole field. I think the biggest intangible and thing we've got to instill as an offense, and this has always been our philosophy, is discipline.''

They've got an uphill battle. Auburn ranked 115th in total offense last season. Lashlee and Malzahn are familiar with all three quarterbacks who started games: Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace.

Lashlee said that familiarity is a plus but they'll still install the offense ``like they've never heard it before.''

He broke the national record with 171 career touchdowns passes under Malzahn and led Shiloh to three state championship games and two titles.

``One of the most beneficial things I have is that I played quarterback in this system and now coach in it,'' Lashlee said. ``When I'm coaching quarterbacks, I can identify with them even moreso than most. I know what they're seeing. I know what they're thinking. I've done those drops. I've thrown that route. I know all that. Not only am I telling them, `here's what you should do,' but they know I've done it.

``It sometimes adds some credibility and resonates better. I get what they're going through.''

Johnson, whose hiring was announced on Thursday, can relate to the challenge of defenses facing Malzahn's offense.

His South Carolina defense faced Malzahn and Newton twice in 2010, losing in the regular season and the Southeastern Conference championship game. Johnson would grumble that the proliferation of hurry-up styles ``is starting to deteriorate some of college football.''

He's backtracking now.

``Did I say that? Translated into Latin, that means, `Somebody help us, we can't stop this,''' Johnson said. ``All of us defensive coordinators complained over the last 5-15 years. Gus wasn't the first one but he kind of put it in warp speed.''

His base defense is a four-man front with two inside linebackers and five defensive backs.

``It will be our foundation,'' Johnson said. ``But Coach Malzahn wants an attacking, multiple defense, and that's what we're going to be. You can only be as multiple as your talent allows you to be. As we evaluate personnel on this football team, we'll find ways to create packages that complement that 4-2-5.''

The coaching change has potentially taken a toll on a recruiting class that has been ranked among the top 10. Recruiting Web sites reported Friday that five-star linebacker Reuben Foster of Auburn High School has decommitted.

No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

USA TODAY Sports Images

No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.

Quick Links

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).