It's being reported in several places that Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn has accepted the offer to become the Head Coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. On the surface the question is why would such a high profile coaching prospect take a job that looks like a very tough turnaround. I don't see it that way. The way I see it Gus Malzahn's stock will probably never be higher as a HC prospect than it is right now. Next year Auburn will most likely (barring some type of miracle) lose Cam Newton and with that will go the unstoppable Auburn offensive attack. Auburn could still have a very good offense next year without Cam but they would not have the intangibles that he brought to the field this year. So Malzahn's stock is most likely to go down after this year even if Auburn's offense still performs at a high level.
Another very important thing to remember about Gus is that he's never been a Head Coach at the collegiate level. By accepting the Vandy job he goes to a school that has a very low level of success in it's history so he doesn't have to win a Conference or National Championship every year (like he would if he held out for a higher profile job at one of the bigger SEC institutions). By going to Vandy he basically gets to learn how to be a Head Coach without being thrown into the proverbial fire. He gets to make mistakes without each one of them being over scrutinized by the blogosphere, the twitterverse, talk radio and the media. He will be taking over a Vanderbilt team that has won 4 games in the last two years. He's not going to be expected to be a miracle worker. And if Malzahn gets Vandy to be a respectable team and gets them bowling then he is considered a success and he puts himself in position to ascend to higher level jobs and when he's ready for them he will have the experience of being a Head Coach and will be more prepared for that opportunity. So, sorry Vandy fans but you are a stepping stone in the game that is College Football. If Malzahn turns around your program then enjoy it while it lasts and hope he grooms a good replacement if he's successful. And if Malzahn is not successful then he has his millions to turn to and I'm sure that somebody out there would pick him up off the scrap heap and make him their OC.
How successful can Malzahn be out of the gate? That's a good question. The timing is good for Malzahn as the SEC East is going through a down phase right now. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee (the perennial Top 3 teams of the league) are all having trouble. South Carolina had their best team in years but are only 9-4 (although they will have Lattimore and Jeffrey back next year). Kentucky looks like they looked under Rich Brooks, they are a good team but not ready for prime time. It's the right time for a move. Vandy will have some offensive weapons like Zac Stacy, Warren Norman and Brandon Barden. Maybe Malzahn's offense is the right answer for soon to be senior Larry Smith or maybe Aaron Rodgers brother is a good fit. This is also a great time for Malzahn to make the move because he can sit down in front of elite QBs and tell them that his offense brought Cam Newton the Heisman Trophy in his first year in that offense. Now that's impressive. Only time will tell if Malzahn will be the right guy for Vandy or if Vandy is the right job for him but in my eyes it's a good move for both sides. From an Auburn perspective you have to be worried about the upcoming National Championship game as coordinators moving into Head Coaching opportunities that are also coaching in the National Championship game doesn't always work out.