The Gene Chizik era at Auburn peeked in 2010 in his second season as the Tigers posted a 14-0 record and won the National Championship. In the last two years, the Tigers saw decreasing returns and after a 3-9 season, in which they went winless in conference play, they parted ways with Chizik.
The ensuing Auburn coaching search was linked to such names as Jimbo Fisher, Gary Patterson, Charlie Strong, James Franklin, Chris Petersen, Kirby Smart and Chad Morris. Ultimately, it was former assistant Gus Malzahn that the Tigers settled on.
Malzahn came to Auburn with Gene Chizik in 2009 and spent three years as Offensive Coordinator with the Tigers. One of those years, 2010, the Tigers were first in scoring in the SEC at 41.2 points per game and total offense at 499.2 yards per game. In the other two years that Malzahn was at Auburn under Chizik, the Tigers went 16-10 and 7-9 in the conference. In Malzahn's final year, the Tigers had their worst year statistically as they averaged 25.7 ppg (7th in SEC) and 337.8 ypg (8th in SEC). The big question for Malzahn, much like it was for Gene Chizik, is how will he be in the SEC without a once in a generation player like Cam Newton.
This year, Malzahn spent his time at Arkansas State filling the shoes left when Hugh Freeze took the Ole Miss job. I predicted that the Red Wolves would go 9-3 this past season and Malzahn was able to live up to those expectations by going 9-3.
Malzahn will have his work cut out for him as the program is only two years from winning a National Championship but since that time the program has really been a mess on and off the field. In college football, and especially in the SEC, you are only as good as your assistant coaches. One of the most interesting things about this hire will be to see who Malzahn picks as his assistants and who remains from the previous coaching staff.
I see this as a "safe" hire with Auburn going with what they know. This could range anywhere from decent to good. I don't see this hire putting Auburn back into contention with Bama and LSU, unless Malzahn finds another generational player, but it definitely should get them headed back in the right direction.