Year 1 of the Gus Malzahn era is going to be pivotal for Auburn on the field and in recruiting.
He certainly appears to be the right guy for the job.
He's a recognizable name, has a history with the program and runs a wide-open and exciting offense. He also has put together an incredible staff, which allowed Auburn to finish the 2013 recruiting cycle as one of the hotter programs on the recruiting trail.
But once the regular season begins, everything—and I do mean everything—will be intensified and everything will matter in terms of recruiting.
Every point scored could sway a big-time recruit, as could every situation handled well or poorly.
Here's how I expect Malzahn's first year as head coach will impact Auburn recruiting:
Better Offense = More Attractive to Recruits
Malzahn is known as a great offensive coach and the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Remember, he was Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2010, when the Tigers won the national championship.
With Malzahn calling the plays that season, the Tigers scored 41.2 points per game, picked up 6,989 total yards, 3,987 on the ground, and scored 41 rushing touchdowns and 31 through the air (per his Auburn bio).
Last season, without Malzahn, Auburn averaged 18.7 points, 148.42 rushing yards and 156.6 passing yards per game. Auburn's total offense in 2012 was 3,660 yards, which is 3,329 yards fewer than in 2010. In fact, under Malzahn in 2011, Auburn still scored 25.7 points per game in a year of offensive struggle for the Tigers, which shows how important he was to the offense.
Even when struggling, Malzahn's offense in 2011 put up seven more points per game and notched 732 more total yards (4,392 yards) than in 2012, when he was the head coach at Arkansas State
(Note: Stats via cfbstats.com)
Malzahn's offense is vibrant and exciting, and a return to that style of football should be expected now that he's back as head coach.
The Tigers should improve on their offensive numbers from last year, and the offense will be much more interesting to watch for fans and recruits alike. Offensive recruits will be sure to notice this change in direction under Malzahn, especially if his offense helps to produce a big win or two.
Improved Defense, Especially the Front Four
Auburn's defense was abysmal last season, giving up 28.3 points per game and 5,046 yards of total offense. The Tigers allowed 4.90 yards per rushing attempt and gave up an average of 11.4 yards per completion through the air. (cfbstats.com)
Those stats should improve drastically for two reasons. One, Malzahn brought in a proven defensive coordinator in Ellis Johnson, who runs a 4-2-5. That defense features five defensive backs on the field at once (normally two corners and three safeties, one being a hybrid linebacker), which allows it to cover the pass much more efficiently.
And, two, Malzahn also landed three big-time defensive recruits, and all three should have a big impact against the run. Montravius Adams, a 5-star defensive tackle, has great size at 6'4'', 310 pounds, and he's skilled enough to demand double teams. And 5-star defensive ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel can be more than just pass-rushers.
Ben Bradley, 4-star JUCO defensive tackle, should also make a big impact, checking in at 6'2'', 302 pounds. So, the Tigers should drastically improve up front in 2013.
Combine that talent with the new 4-2-5 scheme, and the future of Auburn's defense is bright.
Hype, hype, hype
We already know that Malzahn and his staff can recruit well—they proved that at the end of the 2013 cycle—so they should only get a boost from the projected improvements on the field in 2013.
The offense will be better, which will help attract big-time offensive recruits. The defense should be much improved, and I have no doubt that elite defensive recruits will take notice of Auburn's progress in 2013.
That should produce at least a few more wins, and that alone will be huge for the Tigers' recruiting. If Auburn can compete with the best of the best in the SEC in Malzhan's first year, its hype on the recruiting trail will be undeniable.
Expectations should be high for the first year of the Malzahn era, and the impact that year should have on recruiting will be undeniably good.