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Chip Lindsey steps down as Auburn offensive coordinator. Now what?

Auburn celebrates the win.
Texas A&M at Auburn football on Saturday, Nov 3, 2018 in Auburn, Ala.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics
Auburn celebrates the win. Texas A&M at Auburn football on Saturday, Nov 3, 2018 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Auburn is now searching for a new offensive coordinator for the second time in three seasons. According to reports, Chip Lindsey will not return after serving two seasons on staff. Lindsey will reportedly head to Kansas to join Les Miles’ staff in the same position.

Lindsey was out recruiting for the Tigers as recently as Friday night when he attended Pinson Valley’s semifinal game where 2019 QB commit Bo Nix led the Indians to a victory.

In 2017, Chip Lindsey led the Tigers to a year where they ranked 26th in total offense. 2018 was a different story though where Auburn dropped to 94th in total offense. Specifically, the run game took a plunge averaging 218.3 yards per game in 2017 and then averaging 164.1 yards per game in 2018. Of course, Auburn did lose star running back Kerryon Johnson to the NFL and four starting offensive linemen to graduation.

Now, Gus Malzahn must decide on who will lead the offense in 2019 and beyond. Names like Hugh Freeze, Bobby Bentley, and Eliah Drinkwitz are being thrown around. But, could Gus Malzahn take control of the offense like he did when he first became head coach?

Hugh Freeze is the hot name for fans right now. He most recently was head coach at Ole Miss from 2012-2016 and is being pursued by Tennessee for its offensive coordinator vacancy. Freeze and Malzahn are close friends dating back to when they coached high school football. 

During Freeze’s tenure at Ole Miss, he was able to lead the Rebels to two consecutive New Year’s Six bowls and also defeated Alabama in both of those seasons. The issue with Freeze is how he left the program. He was forced to resign after many off-the-field issues. These resulted in Ole Miss facing a bowl ban and scholarship reductions. 

Bobby Bentley currently serves as South Carolina’s running backs coach where his son Jake Bentley plays quarterback. Previously, Bentley served on Gus Malzahn’s staff from 2014-2015 as an offensive analyst. Bentley and Malzahn are also close friends dating back to their high school coaching days. 

Bentley does not have much college experience, but Malzahn did give him his first shot at major college experience back in 2014. With Jake Bentley embarking on his senior season in 2019, coach Bentley may want to stick around Columbia.

Eliah Drinkwitz is the offensive coordinator at N.C. State. He is another one of Gus Malzahn’s close friends. Drinkwitz was a quality control assistant at Auburn from 2010-2011 and then followed Malzahn to Arkansas State where he served as running backs coach. He eventually became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for a season at Boise State before heading to N.C. State in 2016. 

This season, the Wolfpack rank 16th in total offense averaging 471 yards per game led by quarterback Ryan Finley. Finley started his career at Boise State then followed Drinkwitz to N.C. State where he has thrown for at least 3000 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final three seasons. Many Auburn fans have called for better quarterback development and Drinkwitz can provide that.

One final name to look out for is Gus Malzahn himself. He served as offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-2011 when he won a national championship. After a one-year stint as Arkansas State’s head coach, he returned to Auburn as head coach and also called plays from 2013-2015 before giving away playcalling duties away to Rhett Lashlee early in 2016. 

The offenses Malzahn ran in 2013 and 2014 were spectacular and almost led to a national championship in Malzahn’s first season. 2015 took a downturn though with less than stellar quarterback play. Since Malzahn handed playcalling duties to Rhett Lashlee before the LSU game in 2016, Auburn has shown flashes of a great offense, but has yet to put together a complete season. It may be time for Malzahn to become a signal caller once again.

Auburn fans may get a preview of what that last scenario would look like in the Music City Bowl if a hire has not been made by then or Malzahn does decide to take the offense back over. Either way, Auburn will have a different look on the offensive side of the ball in 2019.

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