Gus Malzahn: Offensive Innovator, Visor Copycat


Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn calls out to an line judge during the first quarter against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been said about Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn’s past as an offensive innovator, but he like many others, have learned a thing or two from South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.

When Malzahn was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach at Hughes (AR) High School in 1992, he relied on a football bible of sorts, The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football by legendary Delaware head coach Tubby Raymond. Malzahn claims to have copied Raymond’s method word-for-word. Then, he slowly began to incorporate his own tweaks, plus added elements of things other coaches have done, and 22 years later he is known as one of the greatest offensive football minds of this generation. Along the way, he authored his own book – geared more towards how quickly an offense operates rather than the plays it runs – the Hurry-Up, No Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy.

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Spurrier has never written a book (though here’s to hoping he will one day), but will bring his 4-3 Gamecocks team to Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday.

The Head Ball Coach is known as a pretty good offensive innovator himself. He was first a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then played in the NFL before going into coaching. His Fun ‘n Gun offense worked well enough as a coach for the Gators to win a national championship at Florida and revolutionized the way the game was played in the SEC.

His success caught the attention of the NFL and he spent two years as the head coach in Washington. After going 12-20 in two seasons in the nation’s capital, Spurrier returned to the college game in Columbia, South Carolina. In a 25 year college head coaching career, he has won 223 games. In ten years with the Gamecocks, Spurrier is 81-42.

And while Malzahn surely is a great offensive mind, he and many other coaches have learned from Steve Spurrier.

“When he was at Florida, with the Fun ‘N Gun, I think everybody was intrigued,” said Malzahn Tuesday when speaking with the media. “He just had a different way of doing things and communicating and things like that. Any time somebody’s successful, you look up to someone, you try to take things that could help you.”

One of those things, as it turned out, may have been Spurrier’s choice of headwear.

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  • “I used to wear just a regular hat, a boring hat. I started wearing a visor. I thought it was pretty cool,” Malzahn said as he answered whether or not Spurrier influenced his decision to don a visor on the sidelines.

    Malzahn says he still reaches out to Spurrier, though they don’t necessarily talk about X’s and O’s, and they have a history on the golf course (Spurrier is better, according to Malzahn). They have a history on the football field as well.

    Spurrier is 10-8 all-time against Auburn, but has lost six in a row, including all five as the head coach of the Gamecocks. The last three times the teams have met – twice in 2010 and once in 2011 – Malzahn was calling the plays for the Tigers. The former high school defensive coordinator helped Auburn score 35.7 points per game, while the HBC managed only 19 points per contest.

    Saturday will be Malzahn’s first game against Spurrier as Auburn’s head coach. The offensive innovator and visor copycat will still be calling the plays, however.

    Watch Malzahn discuss the upcoming matchup and his relationship with Spurrier:

    Next: Week 9 SEC Football Power Rankings

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