Gus Malzahn’s torrent start to his tenure as Auburn’s head football coach continued late Thursday night when he hired Rhett Lashlee as his offensive coordinator, Malzahn announced Friday morning.
Lashlee and newly hired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson are expected to be introduced at a 9:15 a.m. press conference Friday.
"Rhett is one of the best young offensive minds in college football," Malzahn said in a statement. "I’ve been with Rhett a long time and he’s been an incredibly valuable right-hand man. He has a great knowledge and understanding of Auburn and will be a tremendous asset for this program both on and off the field.”
Lashlee, 29, will follow Malzahn from Arkansas State, where he was offensive coordinator this past season. Lashlee also coached quarterbacks at Arkansas State, and he will replace former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who unsuccessfully brought a pro-style offense to the Plains in his one season with the program.
For Lashlee, it’s a meteoric rise.
Ten years ago, Lashlee played quarterback for Malzahn at Shiloh (Ark.) Christian High, giving him intimate knowledge of Malzahn’s rare, spread offense. He was a backup quarterback at the University of Arkansas from 2002-04, and he was an offensive graduate assistant at Auburn in 2009 and 2010.
“We’re very excited to be back in Auburn to rejoin this program and the Auburn family, which has the best fans in the country” Lashlee said in a news statement. “I’m looking forward to working with Coach Malzahn and help get this team headed in the right direction and return to winning football. Auburn holds a special place in my family’s heart, as this is where our twin boys were born, so we are blessed to be back. I’m excited to get to work.”
Auburn’s offense finished in the nation’s bottom 10 in total yards (305 per game) and scoring (18.7) this past season. While Lashlee will serve as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Malzahn will likely control the offense.
“I will be helping with the offense. I can’t tell you at this time that I actually will be calling plays,” Malzahn said during his introductory press conference Tuesday night, “but I will be involved.”
Earlier Thursday, Malzahn’s first hire as Auburn’s head coach was Johnson, formerly head coach at Southern Miss.
It took former Auburn coach Gene Chizik more than two weeks after being hired in 2008 to hire his offensive coordinator, who was Malzahn. As head coach, Malzahn has hired the two most important positions in less than three days.
Malzahn released nine assistant coaches left over from Gene Chizik's staff, as well as strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall.
“I’m going to get the best fit for Auburn no matter whether those guys are here, guys who are with me, guys who are other places," Malzahn said Tuesday. "And I’m going to take my time and I think that is so important and I’m going to take my time with it.”