It looks like the unusually young coordinator Gus Malzahn hired could be a good fit for the Auburn football program in multiple ways. The head coach raised more than a few eyebrows in December when he announced that 28-year-old Kenny Dillingham was replacing Chip Lindsey as AU’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.
As the Tigers prepare to take the practice field in August to get ready for their season opener vs. the Oregon Ducks, the head coach says he likes what he has seen so far from his young assistant. “Dillingham has brought energy,” Malzahn said of the guy he hired away from the Memphis coaching staff
The head coach also notes that Dillingham’s transition into the staff has been a smooth one because he trained under Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, who was a graduate assistant coach under Malzahn. The way Malzahn and Norvell approach offense and the plays they call are quite similar.
Dillingham and Malzahn had a test run working together at the Music City Bowl. The head coach was on the sideline calling plays while getting input from Dillingham, who watched from a higher vantage point in the press box. That is how they will work together this season and Malzahn obviously likes the arrangement, calling the young coach his “right-hand” man.
“There are a lot of times he already knows (what play Malzahn likes in a particular situation) and he gives me reminders,” Malzahn said. “It has really been refreshing.”
The duo worked well together in Nashville where the offense had by far its best performance of the 2018 season in a blowout victory over Purdue. However, the quarterback who had a big day in the Music City Bowl, Jarrett Stidham, is trying to make the roster of the New England Patriots and Dillingham has his hands full trying to get an inexperienced replacement ready.
With junior Malik Willis transferring to Liberty in search of playing time after falling behind redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix on the depth chart, Dillingham will earn his salary if he has either one or both ready to win games in the SEC this year.
Nix and Gatewood have plenty of promise, but with the Tigers opening the schedule vs. a Top 10 opponent and playing another one on the road in the SEC opener at Texas A&M three weeks later, how good a job the young coach does with the young quarterbacks will have major impact on how successful the Tigers can be.
Dillingham is a very active recruiter and is off to a good start with that part of his job. The most recent example of that happened on Monday when six-foot-seven, 290-pound Kilian Zierer from College of the Canyons in California, a player Dillingham focused on, committed to Auburn. A native of Germany who chose the Tigers over UCLA, TCU and others, he is the No. 1 ranked junior college offensive tackle prospect, and that is a position of major need Auburn’s 2020 recruiting class.
From the notebook:
• With Chuma Okeke leaving after his sophomore season to become an NBA first round draft pick, Auburn has added more help at the forward position from a prep school standout who played in Arizona this past season and before that was a high school basketball star in Tennessee. Devan Cambridge, who is 6-7, 195 pounds, says he will enroll at Auburn in August after choosing the Tigers over fellow Final Four participant Texas Tech as well as West Virginia and Oregon.
• Cydney Clanton became the first Auburn golfer to win an LPGA tournament, which is a big deal for the 30-year-old who lost her tour exempt status for 2019 by coming up eight dollars short on last year’s prize money list. With the victory in Michigan at a better ball format tournament a huge portion of the former Tiger’s career winnings of $820,188 comes from her $241,269 check she received on Sunday after winning the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Michigan.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter