There are quite a few former long-time high school coaches that now rank among the top ten offensive coaches in college football, but the most famouns and arguably most successful one to date is Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
Before Malzahn was a household name, and even before he broke into the college coaching ranks as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006, he literally wrote the book on the Hurry-Up No Huddle. But prior to that, Malzahn (who also like several of our top ten coached defense initially) was named the head coach at Hughes High School in Arkansas before he was ready for the job. As a result, he picked up another coaching book – The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football by Tubby Raymond – and based his offense on the concepts within.
Over time, Malzahn discovered the advantages of running opponents ragged with his up-tempo system. He added a little of this, a little of that, and the offense evolved from the traditional run-heavy Wing-T (though still maintaining several of it’s most recognizable concepts) to a more spread out attack capable of piling up yards and points through the air or on the ground.
In fact, in what might be the most innovative, diverse and impressive range of offensive production in football history, a Gus Malzahn-coached team has:
- (1) Featured a quarterback (former Shiloh High school signal caller and current Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee) that set a national high school record for passing yards with 672 in a 70-64 playoff victory.
- (2) Led the nation in total offense and featured a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers (as the co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2007).
- (3) Won a national championship with a junior college transfer at quarterback (Cam Newton), using him as a battering ram much of the season (1,473 rushing yards and 20 TDs on a whopping 264 carries) on the way to making him the Heisman Trophy winner and eventual No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick.
- (4) Led the nation in rushing (the first Southeastern Conference team ever to do so), improved from 3-9 to 11-1 the following regular season, won an SEC Championship and earned a spot in the BCS National Championship Game in his first season as head coach (Auburn, 2013).
- (5) Introduced the “Wildcat” to major college football (as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006), which quickly took the nation by storm and eventually the NFL as well, and
- (6) Popularized the pop pass to the point the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks utilized it (and scored a touchdown with it) early last season.
All the while, Malzahn maintains his sophisticated offensive scheme relies on three staples: the inside zone, the power and the counter, with a few wrinkles and the occasional trick play mixed in. And there’s still plenty of time to add to the list.
Next: Urban Meyer