BRYAN, Texas -- 2012 was a year to forget for the Auburn Tigers, who went from National Champions in 2010 to winless in the SEC in two seasons.
That cost Gene Chizik his job, and the Tigers are turning to Gus Malzahn to revive the program.
It's been a quick climb up the ladder for the new Auburn head man, who's gone from high school coach to head coach in the SEC in just eight years.
Malzahn has one season of head coaching experience at the collegiate level, a 9-3 effort last season at Arkansas State. But he's coached at Auburn before, and well, serving as offensive coordinator when Cam Newton and the Tigers won it all in 2010.
Malzahn said, "The fact that I was here in this league for three years previously, I was at Arkansas in 2007, I feel like I've got a really good understanding of the league and the talent and the coaching and everything that goes with that. Then the fact last year I was a head coach at Arkansas State it helped prepare me for this year."
Malzahn inherits a program coming off it's worst season since going 3-8 in 1998. Despite the struggles a year ago the returning players say they learned a lot from it.
"Anytime you go through a season like that, the trauma and the tragedy and the scrutiny, everything that we through last year you have no choice but to rally together," said defensive end Dee Ford.
Cornerback Chris Davis added, "It hurted. It hurted everybody on the team from the team to the fans to the coaches. We all know this is a business and it's about winning. I think that brought us together."
Auburn returns eight starters on offense and eight starters on defense. Quarterback is still up for grabs with sophomore Jonathan Wallace, junior Kiehl Frazier, junior Nick Marshall, and freshman Jeremy Johnson all in a wide open race for the job.
"No, I'm very uncomfortable in not knowing who our quarterback is," said Malzahn. "I really wish I did. We've got those four guys. We're going to give them equal chance. Hopefully we'll be able to identify that one guy earlier rather than later in fall camp because that's going to be the biggest decision we make."
The Tigers open the Malzahn era August 31 at home against Washington State. They'll make their first visit to College Station since 1911 on October 19.