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Quick hits: Gus Malzahn on contract extension, offensive line, schedule and more at SEC Media Days

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn speaks at SEC Media Day on Monday, July 11, 2016.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn speaks at SEC Media Day on Monday, July 11, 2016. Auburn Athletics

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is grateful for the contract extension he received this spring locking him up through the 2020 season. The contract was finalized in April, but wasn’t announced by the university until last month.

“It’s important to every head coach, it shows the administration has confidence in you,” Malzahn said.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs explained the decision to extend Malzahn’s contract at an alumni club event in June. Jacobs hopes the added year will quiet discussion surrounding the coach’s job security while providing the program added stability.

“We both started talking about it early on, and there was so much talk about ‘is he our guy, isn’t he our guy?’ He’s our guy,” Jacobs said. “We need stability at Auburn, and so we’re counting on him to get it done.”

The buyout terms of the contract remain the same — $2,237,500 per year — but Malzahn is hoping to fulfill the terms of the contract and avoid that clause of his deal.

“I love coaching at Auburn,” Malzahn said. “I love being here and expect to be here for a long time.”

Starting five

Auburn’s starting offensive line took shape at the end of spring with Austin Golson at left tackle, Alex Kozan at left guard, Xavier Dampeeer at center, Braden Smith at right guard and Robert Leff at right tackle taking most first team reps.

Malzahn didn’t use the starting label discussing the five, but his comments at SEC Media Days made it clear barring an unexpected development that’s the group fans will see up front on Sept. 3.

“The first five that we put out there, you know they’re pretty much battle-tested and we know what we’re getting,” Malzahn said.

Playing to their strengths

Auburn’s offense will go through some changes once the team names a starter during fall camp.

Malzahn didn’t detail his exact plans, but confirmed the Tigers’ offensive game plan would be tailored to the strengths of the quarterback who wins the job. The comments indicate a John Franklin III-run Auburn offense will look much different than if Jeremy Johnson or Sean White wins the job.

“Once we identify who our starter is, it gives us a best chance of winning,” Malzahn said. “You will see us tweak our offense to build around their strengths. We're always going to have the same philosophy and core beliefs with our offense, but once we make that call on who that guy is, we will tweak and try to build around their strengths and try not to ask them to do things that are maybe not their strengths.”

Home sweet home?

The early portion of Auburn’s schedule isn’t exactly what anyone would describe as a cakewalk. The Tigers are happy to spend the first five weeks of the regular season at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the team faces Clemson, Texas A&M and LSU before the end of September.

“We got a real schedule starting out,” Malzahn said. “I would probably put our schedule up against anybody in college football, especially early.”

Correcting the record

When Malzahn fielded what was supposed to be an affable question about his former wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig on the main stage Monday there was a slight edge to his voice. The reporter wanted to know if trading assistants with LSU would fuel the rivalry between the two SEC West programs.

“First of all, coach Craig decided to move on,” Malzahn said pointedly. “He did a good job for us. We wish him nothing but the best.”

The rest of Malzahn’s response was about being pleased former Auburn wide receiver Kodi Burns as Craig’s replacement and the defensive philosophy Steele brings to the table.