ATLANTA – It’s understandable why Gus Malzahn would seriously consider going back to Arkansas.
Home is where the heart is.
There would be less pressure. Less drama.
Less chance to win an SEC or national title, too.
Malzahn has faced Arkansas five times as a head coach at Auburn, winning four of those by an average margin of 31.75 points.
The loss was four-overtime thriller, 54-46, in Fayetteville in his worst season at Auburn in 2015.
Malzahn couldn’t go from worst to first at Arkansas like he did at Auburn 2013. He doesn’t have the overall talent to do that and it would take him a minimum of three years to accumulate it.
Bret Bielema didn’t just become a bad coach at Arkansas. He didn’t have the talent to compete in the SEC. Malzahn is clearly a better coach than him, but that’s largely due to having better players.
He won’t have that advantage for years at Arkansas.
I understand Malzahn has love for his home state and it has love for him. He’s a legend there who made the come-up from being a great high school coach to coaching in the big-time SEC.
Even got a longtime columnist essentially writing a letter for him to return to Arkansas.
However, he was just at the cusp of winning an SEC title and having the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff before Saturday’s 28-7 loss to Georgia in the conference championship game.
Auburn beat two No. 1 Playoff poll teams – Georgia and Alabama – in a three-week span. That has never happened in the four-year Playoff era. Through multiple top-10 recruiting classes, he has built the talent and depth to compete with the Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and everyone else in the SEC.
Malzahn is ahead of every coach in the league expect Saban and Smart, but he beat both this season. He may lose Kerryon Johnson to the NFL and Kevin Steele to Tennessee or somewhere else, but Malzahn has improved as a coach on multiple levels that includes who he hires.
He’s no longer an offensive coordinator making head-coach money. He’s a head coach who persevered, improved and is now ready to take one more step to win the SEC and make the Playoff.
Arkansas is far from being in that position and Malzahn can’t change it right away.
People talk about less drama at Arkansas. How was Malzahn’s one year as an offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006? It was mad drama.
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