Wednesday marked the first-year Auburn coach’s first SEC Media Days podium call. It lasted 20 minutes. His opening remarks covered four.
He answered one question with one word: “Yes.”
So, no shock that Malzahn wasn’t about to wait for his second or third or fourth Media Days to boldly go on offense, especially when the right question hits the right button.
He got a question about coaches panning fast-paced offenses like his as injury machines. He handled it like a blitz hot read.
“When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was a joke,” he said.
Hello, Gus Malzahn, and welcome to the SEC.
He’s nothing like his predecessor. If Gene Chizik had a prickly moment in his first, second, third or fourth SEC Media Days, then no one noticed.
Not that Malzahn went out of his way. He’s no Steve Spurrier. It took the right question, hitting right where Malzahn lives.
Claiming his preferred offense causes injuries “is like saying the defense shouldn't blitz after a first down because they're a little fatigued and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield,” Malzahn said.
How’s that for turning the tables on defense-minded coaches?
But these aren’t just no-name colleagues panning fast-paced offenses. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema has much to prove in the SEC, but he won a lot of games at Wisconsin. Nick Saban’s four national-title rings need constant polishing, all of the kissing they get.
Bielema’s podium call followed Malzahn’s on Wednesday, and Malzahn’s “joke” turned into Bielema’s borderline rant.
“I’m not a comedian,” Bielema said, his voice raised. “Everything that I say, I truly believe in.”
He went on about promising mommas to look out for the safety of their sons, how hard it is to sub against no-huddle offenses and how fatigued players get hurt.
But Bielema had more Malzahn hot reads to answer.
“If you’re going to look at rule changes, officials, we need to look at the guys on defense that are faking injuries to slow down these pace teams,” Malzahn said.
And Mr. Bielema?
“In addition to not being a comedian,” he said, “I’m not an actor.”
Well, how about that? Two coaches make their first SEC Media Days appearances, and we have a style-clash rivalry, complete with he said/he said.
Who can wait to hear Saban’s answer Thursday, when Alabama takes its Media Days turn?
But credit Malzahn. He came into Media Days unafraid to offend. He knew the question was coming and had a quick-count audible ready.
The guy who claims the fastest offense in football is quick to defend it. If there’s to be debate, then he’ll engage.
Colleagues can complain all they want. He’s lining up and considers his offense unstoppable.
“That's where college football’s going,” Malzahn said. “You see more and more teams using pace. I think you'll see it more and more at the next level, also.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.