Joe Medley commentary: Gus wants faster bus in Year 2

March 17, 2014 

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Saturday that kicker Daniel Carlson and punter Jimmy Hutchinson will face live pressure during next week's practices.

JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Hey, NCAA playing rules oversight panel. We have word from Gus Malzahn.

First, the Auburn coach wants to thank you for tabling the 10-second rule. Kind of goes without saying, but he "obviously" thinks it was the right thing to do.

Oh, and that argument for the rule?

The one that says up-tempo teams rarely snap before 10 seconds have elapsed from the 40-second play clock, anyway?

Yeah, Auburn, at least, might snap the ball more times before 10 seconds next season.

Fresh off producing a national runner-up finish and one of college football's greatest turnarounds, Malzahn isn't about to step away from what brought him here. His offense goes fast, and going faster is one of his top three goals for his second spring practice at Auburn.

You read that right. Malzahn says he wants to go faster.

So, if the NCAA ultimately decides to untable the 10-second rule, Malzahn is glad to be one of the reasons.

But until somebody's defense or some rule stops his offense, he's not about to take his foot off the gas.

"Our third goal is to play faster, offensively and defensively, really with an emphasis on communication," Malzahn announced at his pre-spring news conference today. "I think that's big with the pace offenses and defending the pace offenses. You've got to be able to communicate on both sides."

In case you're wondering, the first two goals were make the fundamentals of Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense and Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme second nature then, secondly, to retain the physical edge Malzahn obviously brought to Auburn a year ago. How else does a team go from 3-9 and 12-2 and SEC champions on a year?

There was a fourth goal … something about developing quality depth.

Goals 1, 2 and 4 turned into Charlie Brown teacher speak when wrapped around "play faster," thanks to this offseason's shoot-down of the controversial 10-second rule.

The NCAA's football rules committee voted to forward the rule, which would prevent pace offenses from snapping before 10 seconds. This after hearing from Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema, two outspoken critics of the pace offenses.

Before the oversight panel could vote March 6, proponents of pace offenses went to media to have their voices heard. An ESPN survey showed that only 25 of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision coaches were for the rule.

Outcry got the rule pulled from the oversight panel's agenda, at least until valid studies could be done to test the premise that pace offenses cause injuries.

Almost two weeks later, Malzahn says he wants to go faster.

Whatever percentage provocateur Malzahn is, he's more a pragmatist. He wants to go faster because he can with quarterback Nick Marshall leading several returning starters on offense.

Unlike last year, Marshall will have a full offseason, including spring practice, to make everything second nature, notably the presnap communication. He should be able to do it faster, and Gus wants the fastest bus he can have.

"With all of that being said, and that being who we are, and we feel like that's one of our advantages, this year we definitely need to improve in that area," Malzahn said.

And if it miffs coaches with more conventional approaches, well, it's all fun talk over a ham-and-egg omelet at Waffle House … at least until that time when/if the NCAA revisits the rules.

-- Joe Medley is a sports columnist for the Anniston Star. You can write to him at jmedley@annistonstar.com.

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