Nationals

Auburn hires ex-assistant Malzahn as head coach

201212042133775917208-p2.jpeg

Auburn hires ex-assistant Malzahn as head coach

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Gus Malzahn stepped off the plane in Auburn and rushed over to a waiting throng of fans, exchanging high-fives and smiles.

He trumpeted ``a new day'' for the Tigers an hour or so later at his introductory news conference as head coach Tuesday night, but really he's hoping to return them to days only recently gone by.

Malzahn brings his fast-paced offense back to Auburn two years after that style - and quarterback Cam Newton - helped the Tigers win a national title.

``It will be fun for our fans and we will get this thing turned around and play championship football like Auburn expects,'' he said.

Malzahn was the Tigers' offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head coaching position. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

The 47-year-old Malzahn received a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually to try to get Auburn back on solid footing with players he already knows and some he recruited. He replaces former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired one day after a 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama to complete a 3-9 season.

Malzahn hasn't ruled out coaching in the bowl game for Arkansas State, which said he had a $700,000 buyout. He said he would talk to Arkansas State administrators about that Jan. 5 game with Kent State but that Auburn is his top priority.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs declined to say whom else he interviewed, but said Malzahn was ``the clear unanimous choice of our search committee.''

``The characteristics that he brought to the table were head and shoulders above everybody else,'' Jacobs said.

The offense especially is in dire need of a makeover after struggles in transitioning to a pro-style system.

Auburn had the nation's 115th-ranked offense last season, averaging 305 yards a game. The Red Wolves were ranked 19th in total yards under Malzahn.

``We will be a fast-paced, attacking-style offense and defense,'' Malzahn said. ``In this day and age, I believe you have to.''

It's the second straight time Auburn has turned to one of its coordinators from an unbeaten team. Chizik ran the defense for the 13-0 team in 2004, and was hired by the Tigers despite a 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State.

The search committee was comprised of Jacobs, Auburn Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson, and former Tigers player Mac Crawford.

Jackson said he was confident that ``we got the right man.''

``We talked to a lot of talented coaches, a lot of coaches that are going to be Division I coaches other places, and they're all stars in their own right,'' said Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner. ``Gus shined a little bit brighter than those guys in the interview process.''

Malzahn said his first priorities will be recruiting and hiring coordinators, but didn't mention any candidates.

Auburn owes more than $11 million in buyouts to Chizik and his coaching staff.

The Tigers are hoping Malzahn can return them to success after a winless SEC season.

But Auburn is also looking for a coach to instill discipline to a program plagued with off-field problems the last few years, including the arrest of four players for armed robbery after the 2010 season.

The NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of signee Jovon Robinson, who was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor admitted to creating a fake transcript.

``I feel very confident that everything is fine, and that's my understanding,'' Malzahn said.

The hiring was welcome news for players who just endured Auburn's worst season in 60 years.

``I know coach Malzahn, and he's an amazing man,'' defensive end Nosa Eguae said. ``He's a standup guy. I'm looking forward to the future. I can't wait to get started and turn this thing around and get some wins.''

Malzahn was earning $1.3 million a year with the Tigers and interviewed with Vanderbilt after the national championship season. He took a substantial pay cut to join the head coaching ranks with the Sun Belt Conference team. Malzahn replaced Hugh Freeze, who also left after one season at Arkansas State to take over at Mississippi.

Malzahn also made a couple of decisions with players that didn't pan out. Tailback Mike Dyer transferred from Auburn - where he was suspended - to Arkansas State. He was then dismissed by Arkansas State in July after a state trooper found marijuana and a gun in a car the national title game MVP was driving.

However, Jacobs said discipline was a factor in choosing Malzahn.

``The wins and losses and all of that comes into play,'' he said. ``When Gus came in and laid out his plan to the committee, he touched on everything that we thought was important and then some. It is all important.''

Quick Links

Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

WASHINGTON -- Suddenly on Thursday, the speakers were alive in Nationals Park.

Out came the voice of public address announcer Jerome Hruska, who was in the stadium. The scoreboard lit up. The light boards around the park were active. By 8 p.m., the stadium lights were on, a benign breeze floated through the park and the intrasquad game was scoreless in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Starlin Castro singled up the middle off James Borque to excite the “crowd.” A cheer came through the speakers when the ball landed in center field. There were also cheers when a player struck out. Such is the nature of intrasquad play.

RELATED: FAUCI COULD SEE FANS AT MLB GAMES

So, the park went from echoing silence for almost two weeks to jazzed up three days before the exhibition opener. It was an improvement.

“If anything, it gets you zoned in a little more,” Erick Fedde said. “Crowd noise is something I feel like most are pretty good at zoning out. I didn’t really think about it to be honest. But it was nice to kind of feel like we had a little bit better atmosphere today.”

Major League Baseball went a similar route to the Premier League in order to combat empty stadiums. Sky Sports worked with EA Sports’ FIFA division to create simulated chants and crowd noises designed for specific teams. Here, MLB drew from audio created for the video game MLB The Show.

The video board usage was a distinct improvement from prior days when it only carried a doomsday-looking clock since workouts began July 3. Wednesday, it was filled with normal graphics -- including new ones mentioning who won the 2019 World Series -- throughout the intrasquad game.

“They noticed it,” Davey Martinez said of the players. “With not having like a regular crowd, obviously the echo out in the field, it’s different. We had to click it down a little bit to get it where we thought it was more ‘real’. But they liked it. They liked the noise. They like the music -- they like to dance -- so it was good. We got a great reaction from them, liked it, we’re going to incorporate it this season. We’re going to work out the bugs. It’s definitely a lot better to hear that than listen [to] yourself screaming or hear everyone talking.”

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

It’s a work in progress. Wednesday night, Wilmer Difo popped up behind home plate into the stands and a large cheer went up. It was the kind of noise even the most overzealous fan base would not produce.

The noise as a whole was turned down in the final innings, per the players’ request. Martinez thought they found the proper spot for the volume by the end of the night.

“I want to make this last week or so as close as we can to real games,” Martinez said.

-- Stephen Strasburg started for one side. He struck out four consecutive batters after Trea Turner doubled to start the intrasquad game. Not surprisingly, Martinez said he thought Strasburg looked good. He’s in line to face James Paxton in the second game of the season when the New York Yankees come to Nationals Park.

-- Starlin Castro has been piling up at-bats and swings since joining camp July 9. He started late, so he is trying to catch up. He’s also crucial -- remaining likely to hit third during the season -- so the Nationals want to be sure he’s not doing too much.

“It’s a fine line,” Martinez said. “He’s been taking a lot of swings in the cage. Hitting, hitting off the velo machine. I’m not overly concerned with Starlin. He’s just a pure hitter. He’s a good hitter. ...he’ll be fine.”

-- Carter Kieboom made a nice sliding defensive play to his left and was able to get up and throw to first for the out. He also turned a 5-3 double play when fielding a grounder, hearing yells to step on the bag, slightly changing direction to find it, then throwing to first. His education at third base is happening in real-time.

-- Martinez positively mentioned Jake Irvin throwing 95-97 mph on Wednesday when he pitched the bottom of the fifth inning. Irvin, 23, pitched for Single-A Hagerstown last season.

“It’s so funny to watch these young kids come up,” Martinez said. “He walked off the mound and had those big ‘ol eyeballs sticking out. I can remember those days when I was a kid coming out and playing those games.”

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

On Wednesday, Twitter experienced a large number of hacks into numerous big name, verified accounts. As the social media platform worked to control the problem, it limited the tweeting capabilities for all verified accounts.

Essentially, that means anyone with a blue checkmark is stuck in a social media purgatory where they couldn't share their thoughts. That includes the Washington Nationals team account. 

However, verified accounts still had the ability to retweet other tweets. The Nationals took advantage of this feature in the most perfect way possible, deciding to share some tweets from an account called "everyword" which tweets every word in the English dictionary. Yes, that account does perfectly sum up what Twitter is.

Washington used its retweeting ability to form an incredible sentence on the team's profile: "cant tweet but still champions."

The Nationals have mentioned their recent World Series Championship in almost every tweet since the final out on October 30, 2019, and rightfully so. The accomplishment was a big one, and until someone knocks them off, they have the right to let the world know they are the champions. Twitter may have been in a shutdown, but that wasn't going to stop them.

RELATED: NATS CAN'T DO 19-31 AGAIN

Soon after, tweeting rights were once again granted, and Washington wasted no time getting back to their Twitter grind.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: