New Grantland: The Making of a Modern Guru: How Gus Malzahn Turned Auburn Around

It’s now up over at Grantland:

This season, Auburn has been anything but balanced — not that it has mattered. The 2013 Tigers are the first SEC team to average more than 300 yards rushing per game in almost 30 years. (The last team to do that? The 1985 Auburn team led by Bo Jackson.) But while Newton and current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall both ran for more than 1,000 yards in Malzahn’s offense, they did so while using very different approaches. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Newton was essentially Auburn’s power back, and Malzahn featured him on a variety of inside runs. Marshall, by contrast, is shorter and lankier than Newton but boasts great quickness and acceleration. As a result, Auburn’s 2013 offense has focused less on the core wing-T run plays and more on zone reads to get Marshall on the edges while allowing Mason to use his excellent vision and patience to find running lanes.

The backbone of Auburn’s current rushing attack has been an amped-up version of the zone-read, which gives Marshall as many as four options: (1) throw a receiver screen, (2) hand it to Mason, (3) keep the ball, or (4) keep the ball and then toss it to a receiver who can sit in an open area of the defense if the man covering him comes up for the run — a form of the quadruple-option.



Although Marshall running the shotgun zone-read is far afield from the old-school wing-T, these subtle adjustments are pure Raymond: They’re sequenced plays, in which the base play sets up the counter and the counter sets up the counter to the counter, all dressed up with misdirection.

Read the whole thing.

  • Mr.Murder

    On the late TD run for Auburn it was a “Bo knows Mason” moment. The score ended up being too fast, and let FSU control the final drive that won the game. Gus found a way to put power and speed into the same game plan, that is what seems so new. At one time you could mostly focus on one trait to build an attack around. He can use every feature, on every play. Much credit to ‘Noles stopping the screen game, though it could have been why the late run game was so effective straight at them, after Fl St initially did well on those IZ calls. They were pairing the focus on two main elements for most of the game, Inside run(the bulk of Gus Bus mileage) and the automatic screens to take whatever a defense gives outside. Those usually form the core of consistency that lets them try so many other things in the game. Most of the game had middle open reads, the pick Auburn threw had a wide open post route. Often they went almost zero later in the game, or showing one high and rotating him(like an six or eight look)? The game didn’t really show much field shots of coverage that I could view on some of those moments. The boundary blitz also allows them to have less field to cover on defender switches, and Auburn best traditional success was against Bama’s field side pressures and reading the best located. The FSU plan more or less flipped those looks, which allowed the under coverage to rotate field, that meant ‘backers were able to be in place against blockers instead of DB’s, it put numbers back to field side. Boundary windows tightened(late INT) and field side got stronger to stop the speed sweep and screens.