Gus Malzahn, the coordinator of top-ranked Auburn’s prolific offense, is not a joking kind of guy. That does not mean others will not have fun at his expense.
Herb Hand, Vanderbilt’s offensive line coach, is one former co-worker who knows the bookish Malzahn well enough to tease him. When they worked together at Tulsa, Hand would tape pictures of the cartoon boy genius Jimmy Neutron on Malzahn’s office door, even drawing in Malzahn’s glasses for effect, to poke his reputation as an offensive mastermind.
Other days, Hand, who knew Malzahn bristled when people stereotyped him as having a “gadget offense,” would print pictures of the cartoon character Inspector Gadget.
Hand also has a close relationship with Oregon Coach Chip Kelly, who would visit Hand’s old employer West Virginia during spring practices in the Rich Rodriguez era. Kelly once flew through Tulsa on a trip from Florida to Eugene just to watch film with Hand for four hours. There was no meal or tour of the city, just heavy viewing of play-action series concepts. When Kelly discovered a new route-adjustment concept, he declared to Hand, “That right there is worth my trip.”
When No. 1 Auburn plays No. 2 Oregon in the Bowl Championship Series title game on Jan. 10, the matchup will feature the presumed Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, and the likely runner-up, Oregon tailback LaMichael James.