AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn has been around the college game since 2006, when Arkansas hired the storied high school coach to become its offensive coordinator. But those nine years in college don't come close to Will Muschamp. Auburn's defensive coordinator outranks his superior in that regard; except for a one-year layover with the Miami Dolphins in 2006, Muschamp has coached at the college level since 1995, when Auburn brought him on as a graduate assistant.
But Muschamp said people shouldn't be fooled by Malzahn's short tenure — relatively speaking — in college. His success should do the talking for him.
"The last nine years that he's been in college football, he's had the No. 1 offense in the country," Muschamp said last month. "He's put up a lot of points. He's very difficult to prepare for. We did play him my first year at Florida when he was at Auburn and schematically he gives you a lot of issues."
And what specifically gave Muschamp fits?
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"He does a nice job with matchups," Muschamp said, "and putting guys in right spots."
Looking at the numbers from that 2011 contest, one might draw the conclusion Muschamp was overstating his new boss' prowess on that day. Yes, Auburn won 17-6. But it wasn't as if the Tigers' offense put up eye-popping numbers. The Gators actually had more first downs (14 to 13) and allowed just 278 yards of total offense (155 rushing, 123 rushing).
That game is of little consequence now, of course.
After he and Florida parted ways at the end of last season, Muschamp was rumored to be a candidate for numerous defensive coordinator positions that surfaced. Yet Auburn was the only one that truly piqued his interest.
And Malzahn was the driving force behind that fascination.
"His vision is a lot of the reason why I'm at Auburn in how he handles his assistant coaches and how he handles and manages his program," Muschamp said. "The guy does an outstanding job."
With the offense expected to continue humming along under Malzahn's guidance, Muschamp knows it's on him to do the same with a talented unit that came apart in the second half of the 2014 campaign.
"We need to play better on defense and I think that we can," he said. "I think we will, (but) we still have a long way to go."