SEC: Tim Horton

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn might have been born in Texas, but he spent the majority of his life in nearby Arkansas.

[+] EnlargeMitch Mustain, Gus Malzahn
John Reed/USA TODAY SportsCurrent Auburn coach Gus Malzahn returns to Arkansas this weekend, and his Tigers have a lot at stake in this matchup.
The first-year head coach in the SEC attended Fort Smith (Ark.) Christian High School. He walked on to the University of Arkansas as a wide receiver but transferred to Henderson State after two seasons. He coached 15 years of high school football in his home state before becoming the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator in 2006, his first college job.

After coaching stints with Tulsa and Auburn, Malzahn returned home in 2012 when he accepted the head-coaching position at Arkansas State. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record and the Sun Belt championship (he did not coach their bowl win over Kent State).

It came as no surprise that Malzahn’s name came up when his alma mater was searching for a new coach after last season. He had interviewed at Arkansas once before, following Houston Nutt’s departure, but the job went to Bobby Petrino. This time, the Razorbacks passed on him in favor of Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.

On the same day, Bielema was hired in Fayetteville, Ark., Malzahn was introduced as Auburn’s new coach.

Now, nearly 11 months later, Malzahn is 7-1 and has the Tigers in control of their own destiny in the SEC West, while Bielema has yet to win an SEC game. On Saturday, the two will meet for the first time as head coaches.

“Right now, with where are going each week, we’re trying to do everything in our power to win,” Malzahn said. “It doesn’t make any difference if we are going to Arkansas or going to [Texas] A&M or anywhere else. There’s enough to it without anything else added to it.”

But don’t think Malzahn didn’t have this game circled on the calendar when he took over on the Plains. It’s his fourth trip back to Fayetteville since leaving in 2006, and he’s yet to win as an opposing coach inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, losing twice at Auburn (2009 and 2011) and once at Tulsa (2008).

However, Malzahn isn’t want to let his emotions get the best of him or his team.

“Coach is old-school,” Auburn defensive end Dee Ford said. “He’s going to treat it like another game. I don’t think he’s going to worry about anything as far as personally for him. I think he’s going to treat it like an SEC game, and he knows how important this four-game stretch is. It’s just like any other SEC game to him.”

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee knows Malzahn better than anybody. He’s been his right-hand man since the two were at Springdale (Ark.) High School together nearly a decade ago.

“Coach is pretty locked in all the time,” Lashlee said. “I would think these next several weeks are going to be pretty amped-up no matter what. Let’s be honest, it’s a place we’re from and we’ve been before. It’s a big game, but it’s a big game because we have a lot of opportunity out in front of us.

“I have known coach, and back in high school it didn’t matter who we were playing, he prepared the same way. That’s what I anticipate we’ll do.”

Malzahn and Lashlee aren’t the only two coaches who will have more friends and family in attendance than normal come Saturday. It’s also a homecoming for running backs coach Tim Horton and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, who both coached for Arkansas at one time or another during their careers.

“I’ve been there and done it before,” Malzahn said. “Those guys, a lot of them haven’t. We hadn’t really talked about it. We’ve been focused on preparing and trying to give our guys the best chance of being successful.”

There will continue to be plenty of talk this week surrounding Malzahn’s return. Regardless of what he says, there’s going to be extra emotion leading up to the game. But come Saturday, it’s about winning the next game on the schedule.

That would make for the perfect homecoming.

Gus Malzahn makes coaching changes

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
4:35
PM ET
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has barely been on the job, but he's already having to reshuffle his coaching staff.

On Friday, Malzahn announced that assistant head coach/special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is leaving to become the special teams coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Malzahn hired Bisaccia from the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 3.

With Bisaccia heading back to the NFL, Malzahn announced that tight ends coach Tim Horton will now coach running backs, while Scott Fountain, who has served as Auburn's player personnel director the past four years, has been promoted to tight ends/special teams coach.

Horton has 12 years of experience as a running backs coach at the college level, including the past six years at Arkansas. He coached four different 1,000-yard rushers from 2007-10. Some of the big names he's instructed include Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Knile Davis.

"Rich had an offer that he felt he could not turn down and we wish him nothing but the best," Malzahn said in a release through the school. "I'm excited that Tim will be coaching our running backs. He has a tremendous track record coaching some great backs and I'm extremely confident that will continue here at Auburn. Scott is someone I tried to hire as an assistant coach a year ago at Arkansas State. He is a great coach with a tremendous work ethic, and his strong ties in the state of Alabama will be an asset to our program."

Surely, Malzahn didn't want to have to make any sort of coaching change this early into his tenure at Auburn. But the good news for Malzahn is he had a plan in place and didn't have to go far to find a replacement.

Lunchtime links

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
12:00
PM ET
The game is finally here and we'll be saying goodbye to the 2012 football season later tonight. Another year is in the books. It seems like they go faster and faster.

Eight SEC coaches among top recruiters

February, 10, 2011
2/10/11
10:00
AM ET
ESPN recruiting analysts Corey Long and Jamie Newberg have come up with their list of the 25 best recruiters in college football this year.

These are all assistant coaches, and eight SEC coaches made the cut -- Sal Sunseri of Alabama, Tim Horton of Arkansas, Trooper Taylor and Tommy Thigpen of Auburn, Mike Bobo of Georgia, Frank Wilson of LSU, G.A. Mangus of South Carolina and Charlie Baggett of Tennessee.

The ACC was second with five assistant coaches on the list.

I put together my own list earlier this month of the SEC's top 25 recruiters among assistant coaches, and six of the eight SEC guys on the national list were also on my list. The two I didn't have on my list (Mangus and Thigpen) should have been.

Bottom line: If you can't recruit in the SEC, you're probably not going to be around very long -- or you better be one of the best position coaches in the business.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 11/27
Friday, 11/28
Saturday, 11/29