A QB's view of Malzahn offense

We’ve heard and read so much in recent days about the supposed simplicity of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s scheme and its impact on No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton’s upcoming NFL career.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

Since no one who wrote it or said it, to the best of my knowledge, is an expert on offensive football and since I’m certainly not, I decided to ask someone who would know.

Chris Todd ran Mike Leach’s offense at Texas Tech. He ran Tony Franklin’s offense at Auburn and switched at midseason to the offense Al Borges had run the previous season. And he broke records as the quarterback in Malzahn’s offense.

So I called him at his home in Kentucky. I’ll admit that some of what he said went over my head, but suffice it to say, that he finds it all rather amusing.

Yes, he said, the quarterback goes through progressions in Auburn’s passing game like any other. Yes, the quarterback has to call pass protections. Yes, the quarterback can make changes before the play based on what the defense shows.

What makes it look simple, Todd said, is Malzahn’s preparation and the preparation he demands of his quarterbacks.

“We spend so much time on it,” Todd said. “I think the coaches do a real good job in repetitions of going over and over stuff. Throughout the week, we have what we call the quarterback tip sheet. We go over that several times a day every day. By the end of the week, we have everything memorized.

“There are still a lot of blitzes you have to pick up and calls you have to make, but you know what to expect and when to expect it.”

Malzahn’s scheme, Todd said, is something of a mix between the West Coast offense run by Borges and the spread offense he ran for half a season under Franklin. The quarterback in Malzahn’s offense, Todd said, tends to read the entire field. In Borges’ offense, based on what the defense is doing, the reads may be on one side of the field.

“Every play depends on what the defense is giving you, what you are getting,” Todd said. “The coaches are expecting something, so they call it. If they get what they expect, the first read is going to be there. There are obviously reads. You kind of simplify it when you are walking up to the line of scrimmage and see the defense.”

So there you have it from one who knows.

Todd broke an Auburn record with 22 touchdown passes and threw just six interceptions. Newton shattered his record with 30 touchdown passes and threw just seven interceptions. At tailback, Ben Tate rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2009. Mike Dyer did it in 2010, and Onterio McCalebb just missed it.

Newton ran for more yards than any quarterback ever has, despite running hardly at all in three games against overmatched opponents. Had Malzahn let him run in those games, he’d probably have had 2,000 yards rushing.

With five different quarterbacks, record-breaking numbers have followed Malzahn throughout his five seasons as an offensive coordinator.

“With Coach Malzahn,” Todd said, “you always know what to expect. You are always prepared. That’s what makes it simple.”

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