Saturday, July 12, 2014

Malzahn finds motivation looking ahead

January 10. 2014 11:46PM
JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer

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AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t sleep in after returning from the BCS national championship game in California.

Instead, he arrived at the office early Wednesday morning like always and went right back to work. Coming up 13 seconds short of a title tends to be pretty motivating.

“The future’s bright. That’s what I told our team last night, that the groundwork’s laid and the future’s bright and we’re looking forward,” Malzahn said on Friday. “I’m excited. Once I get over the feeling of when you lose a championship game that close, you put that behind you and move forward. We’ll work extremely hard to get back there and try to redeem ourselves.

“You’re always looking for things to motivate you and that’s a very motivating thing for me. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Malzahn repeatedly referred to Auburn’s future as bright at his end-of-season news conference after the Tigers’ 34-31 loss to Florida State on a touchdown with 13 seconds left. Indeed, even with tailback Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, Auburn could enter next season with a Top 10 ranking.

Malzahn said Auburn’s approach must be the same as players adopted coming in with low outside expectations this past season.

The Tigers will have eight starters back on offense, including quarterback Nick Marshall, and seven on defense.

“I can see them being national champs,” Mason said.

The next goals are wrapping up a recruiting class currently rated in the Top 10 and keeping the coaching staff intact.

Malzahn said he expects to sign his new six-year contract “in the near future.” He also has visited with athletic director Jay Jacobs about discussing new contracts for his assistant coaches.

“We’ve got one of the best staffs in college football and we’ll do everything in our power to keep them together,” Malzahn said.

He’s also optimistic about the strides Marshall can make with considerably more time in the system. The junior college transfer directed the nation’s top running offense and passed for 217 yards and two touchdowns against the Seminoles. Malzahn has never had a starting quarterback return as a college coach.

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