AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is turning to a familiar face to replenish his graduate assistant ranks.
Ryan Aplin, one of Malzahn's former players at Arkansas State, will join Auburn as an offensive graduate assistant. Malzahn even made the announcement himself, revealing the hire on Wednesday after wrapping up discussions with fellow Southeastern Conference coaches at the league's spring meetings in Destin, Florida. Aplin leaves Ole Miss, where he has served as an administrative intern under another one of his former coaches at Arkansas State, Hugh Freeze, since August.
Aplin fills the void left by Kodi Burns, who departed his alma mater last month to become the running backs coach at Samford.
Though he worked with the Rebels in a non-coaching capacity, Aplin has been on Malzahn's radar for some time.
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"Ryan is going to be a big-time college coach," Malzahn said in September. "Anytime you've got successful quarterbacks that have been in your system, that's always a plus."
The move didn't surprise Freeze. In fact, he seemed to be expecting it.
"I think I'm getting ready to lose another one to Auburn and I can't stop the young guy because I don't have a spot for him and they do," Freeze told reporters Tuesday after getting out of the first day of the SEC meetings. "We all love the guy."
On the field, Aplin's play spoke for itself. He was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons (2011-12) while leading the Red Wolves to the conference title both years. Under Freeze's tutelage in 2011, Aplin threw for 3,588 yards and 19 touchdowns (against 16 interceptions) while scoring 10 more times on the ground. With Malzahn's help in 2012, Aplin upped his accuracy to 68 percent and cut down on his interceptions, throwing just four. He proved to be every bit as dangerous, as he was responsible for 30 total touchdowns (24 passing, six rushing).
And it's not the first time Malzahn has given one of his former signal-callers a job. Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee played under Malzahn at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas. Burns also tried his hand at quarterback — when Malzahn was Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2010 — before eventually moving to receiver.