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March 26, 2013
Looking for an edge
AUBURN | It's been a busy three months for Gus Malzahn.
He built a star-studded array of assistant coaches, scrambled to sign a surprisingly strong class of newcomers, outlined the development of a new culture within the program and hustled to spread goodwill to a much larger group of high school coaches.
Still, his interests have been even more varied.
The Auburn coach on Tuesday said his primary concern for the next three weeks is to create diligence and sustained aggression throughout the Tigers' roster. The inference, of course, is that his team is lacking in both respects.
"We've got to get our edge back, (being) physically and mentally tougher," Malzahn said. "We're going to have to be very physical during spring practice. We're going to have the pads on and we're going to get after it with the basic fundamentals of football. Also, we're going to stress discipline on the field and that's a big part of what we're doing."
Learning to play Malzahn's way means dealing with pace.
Lots and lots of pace.
After all, he wrote a book espousing the benefits of executing as many plays as possible in an effort to create defensive fatigue. That leads to mistakes. Those lead to points. Those lead to wins.
That means players solely familiar with the Tigers' previous system may be shocked the level of effort required to perform the most basic tasks. Nobody has faced a bigger learning curve than spring newcomers Cameron Artis-Payne, Ben Bradley and Devonte Danzey.
Though many current players remain from Malzahn's days as offensive coordinator, the junior college transfers have zero experience with the new coach's demands.
They'll have to get used to it. This is the new way.
" That's who we are -- tempo is going to be a very big factor for us offensively and defensively," Malzahn said. "We're going to be a no-huddle team and that's a mentality. We're going to learn to play fast, practice fast and do everything fast. We think that will be a definite advantage."
No player will arrive physically unprepared.
Malzahn said he's been pleased with the changes strength coach Ryan Russell has been able to produce among players. The emphasis with off-season workouts has been to increase each player's tolerance to explosive tasks, cardiovascular fitness and overall flexibility.
He believes that will help the Tigers immensely between now and A-Day on April 20.
"We're pretty well pleased with where we are as a team," Malzahn said. "It's a process. It was new to a lot of them. A lot of them were strained, very uncomfortable. That's a good thing. We're in a good spot right now as we move forward into spring. We're going to strain them again. They're going to be uncomfortable again during the spring. The goal is -- we've got a spring; we've got to get our edge back."