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Back to reality: Gus Malzahn doesn’t want to live and die with every play

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee have a discussion on the sidelines facing Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee have a discussion on the sidelines facing Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn knew before the Clemson game was over that he made a mistake.

Malzahn promised to be more hands-on with the offense during the offseason attributing last season’s offensive struggles to his CEO approach.

The renewed emphasis on the nuts and bolts of Auburn’s offense didn’t turn out as Malzahn expected.

Malzahn didn’t like results or the attitude he had on the sidelines during the first three weeks of the season. While Malzahn initially described his demeanor as angry, he ended up offering a more nuanced description.

“I felt like I was too negative the first couple of games,” Malzahn said. “That’s probably the best thing way to put it. I was living and dying with every play.”

Malzahn handed over play calling duties to Rhett Lashlee leading up to Auburn’s win over LSU, a decision he felt even before the game was “100 percent best” for the team.

“My plan in the offseason, was to be more involved like I talked about,” Malzahn said. “Sometimes reality hits you. In this day and time in this league, to be the head coach and call an offense is not realistic, at least for me.”

Herb Hand will also have an expanded role developing the team’s offensive game plan for the week. Malzahn will still be involved, but not in the planning and preparation stage.

“The biggest difference is I'm not going to be in that film room for 20 hours a day,” Malzahn said. “I'm going to let them do it. I'll still be on top of things and involved but it's going to allow me there for my players more. I think that's the biggest thing, and the other coaches more.”

Players noticed a difference coming out of the tunnel Saturday.

“He was more calm, more relaxed,” Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford said. “He just let us have more fun. He came in energized throughout the whole week...He just had us all relaxed and let us go play ball.”

Malzahn spent much of the LSU game on the opposite end of the field as the office listening in on the headset.

“Boy, you can really see the defense different,” Malzahn said. “You can really see how everything is unfolding.”

Malzahn called it a refreshing change of pace not being “caught in the next play.”

“I feel very good about moving forward with where we're at,” Malzahn said. “We've got the potential to grow a lot on offense. These guys have been with me a long time and I've got confidence in them.”