Just last year the Auburn Tigers were the laughing stock of the Southeastern Conference. They finished the 2012 season with a 3-9 record and a humiliating and embarrassing 0-8 in the SEC.
In just their first season under Mahlzan the Tigers beat arch rival Alabama and waltzed away to win the SEC title in 2013. They now find themselves staring down the BCS National Championship title game against Florida State.
(In fact, between 2012 and 2013 Auburn tied for the biggest turnaround in college football history in NCAA records at +8.5 games. Not too shabby!)
As a result, some University of Miami fans have asked several valid questions:
- How did Auburn manage to turn it around in just one year?
- Why is the UM team, in spite of decent recruiting efforts, still mired in mediocrity?
- Why can't Miami be the team that goes from zero to hero in one year or less?
It appears that the answer is simple: Rushing Offense and Scoring Defense.
Malzahn and his assistant coaches took the exact same players that Auburn had on their roster in 2012 (plus the 2013 recruiting class) and turned their team completely around in just one year.
And surprisingly enough all of the coaches on Malzahn's defensive staff spent their first year at Auburn. They ranked #1 in rushing offense in the NCAA and #38 in scoring defense. By comparison the Miami Hurricanes ranked #63 in rushing offense and #59 in scoring defense in 2013.
So who are the coaches who got it done for the Tigers? I am so glad U asked:
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, one of the most respected defensive minds in college football, is a 30-plus year coaching veteran who has 16 years of experience coaching in the Southeastern Conference.
"Ellis is one of the top defensive minds in all of college football. He is very experienced and has tremendous success coaching in the Southeastern Conference," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "He is a man of integrity who is a great ambassador for Auburn, adding his wealth of knowledge and experience to our program."
Johnson was at South Carolina for four years (2008-11), where he served as the Gamecocks' defensive coordinator while also holding the title of assistant head coach.Along with his four years at South Carolina, Johnson has logged stints as the defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984), Southern Miss (1988-89), Clemson (1995-96), Alabama (1997-2000) and Mississippi State (2004-07).He has coached in four SEC Championship games, has been part of one national title and has placed numerous players on NFL rosters.
While defensive coordinator at South Carolina, Johnson also served as linebackers coach. In his final season with the Gamecocks, his defense ranked third nationally, allowing just 268 yards per game. Under Johnson, South Carolina finished in the Top 15 nationally in total defense three times. In addition to the 2011 mark of No. 4 overall, the USC defense ranked No. 13 in scoring defense (18.8 points per game) and second in pass defense.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who helped the Tigers to a 2013 SEC Championship and a BCS Championship berth this season, has helped spearhead one of the most prolific offenses in Auburn history in 2013. For the last two seasons, he has been a finalist for the Broyles Award, presented to the nation's top assistant coach.
Without starting quarterback Nick Marshall going through spring workouts, Lashlee coached the junior college transfer who played defensive back as a freshman at Georgia to 2,782 yards of total offense (1759 passing and 1023 rushing) while throwing for 12 touchdowns and rushing for 11 TDs.
Auburn led the nation rushing for 335.7 yards per game, was ranked 11th in total offense with 505.3 yards per game, 12th in scoring offense with 40.2 points per game, 13th with 309 first downs and 19th in red zone offense efficiency (51-of-57, .895).
The Tigers set a school record with 45 rushing touchdowns on the season, set a school record against SEC opponents with 677 yards of total offense vs. No. 5 Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers set SEC Championship Game team records for rushing 26 first downs, 74 rushing attempts, 545 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
Junior Tre Mason, a Heisman Trophy finalist and SEC Player of the Year, ranks third in the nation with 22 touchdowns, is sixth nationally with 1,621 yards rushing, sixth with 10.6 points per game, eighth with 164.38 all-purpose yards per game and ninth with 124.7 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile, Miami Hurricane fans wait for "The Process" to work in Coral Gables. Clearly, a few Hurricane fans appear to be getting a little anxious and may have grown tired of waiting. Yet most Miami fans (me included) believe that it will happen, and happen soon.
But to make that a reality based on the "Auburn Model", Miami must begin to dominate offensively in the running game and improve their performance in scoring defense immediately.