The Book of Malzahn

The secret was to simplify things, to take teenage thinking out of the equation and let athleticism take over. Instead of running the play call into the game with a wide receiver, or signaling plays to the quarterback (and then asking the quarterback to relay them to the team), Malzahn demanded every player watch the signals from the sideline. The fullback, not the quarterback, called out the pass protections. The signals also were simplified, arranged by colors (blue, yellow, black, green and red) and numbers, then named after Biblical characters. An offensive coordinator would stand next to a flip board, and if he posed like David slinging his slingshot in the story of David and Goliath, the players would know immediately what play to run based on color and number combinations. "It changed the way I look at football," Malzahn said. "It gave you twice the reps, twice the opportunity to call plays. You had to be in a different kind of shape, mentally and physically to do it, but it was like stealing early. It was such an advantage."

In 1996, before Malzahn installed the hurry-up no-huddle, Floyd (a sophomore) threw for 1,440 yards and 13 touchdowns. Shiloh averaged 15.5 points a game. The following year, Floyd threw for 4,075 yards and 45 touchdowns and Shiloh averaged 30 points a game. "We were scoring so fast, we played teams and they were winded and dead tired at the end of the first quarter," Floyd said. "Our conference didn't want to play us anymore. We ended up having to play games all over the state because teams wouldn't schedule us."

Football coaches throughout the state grumbled that Malzahn's new philosophy was a gimmick, a fad that would soon collapse. But his players kept putting up video-game numbers and his teams kept winning. Floyd's senior year, Shiloh went 15-0, and he threw for a jaw-dropping 5,221 yards and 66 touchdowns (a national record). "He had a way of instilling confidence in us through sheer repetition," Floyd said. "The joke used to be he'd say, 'One more play and we're done with practice.' Then we'd run it 10 or 20 more times before we'd actually be done."

It was an important time in Malzahn's life, looking back. As a young coach, he had such a burning desire to win, he was like a stick of dynamite, and you didn't want to be caught in the blast area when he went off. But Shiloh taught him patience. It made him focus on being a better man. He tried to motivate through positive reinforcement instead of fear. He prohibited the use of swear words. But most important, he learned to adapt his model to fit the talent that came out each season for the team. Years later, when he got into the college game and people sneered at Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn for hiring a high school coach to be their offensive coordinator, he just chuckled. Other coaches needed time to recruit players to fit their system. Malzahn simply adjusted his system to fit the players. "I knew my time in high schools was one of the biggest advantages I had," Malzahn said.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...