FLORENCE — The quick announcement of Gus Malzahn’s hiring as Auburn’s new head football coach brought an immediate reaction from the program’s supporters Tuesday afternoon.
For at least two members of the Shoals Auburn Club, Malzahn’s hiring was welcome news.
“I’m excited,” said David Gardner, who is a Shoals Auburn Club board member. “He is familiar with Auburn. I’m ready to move on from the season we had. We needed to get somebody hired and get back rolling.”
Terry Mitchell, the club treasurer, agreed.
“I think it’s about as good a pick out of all the names we’ve been hearing as it could have been,” he said. “He’s familiar with the program. We won a national championship with him running the offense.”
Muscle Shoals defensive lineman Dee Liner, one of the nation’s top prospects and an Auburn commitment, said he expects to be in touch with Malzahn. He said Tuesday afternoon that he isn’t familiar with Auburn’s new coach.
“I really don’t know at this point, but I’ll probably have some answers soon,” said Liner, who committed to Auburn before his junior year in 2011. “I’ve never talked to (Malzahn). I’ll probably have a talk with him soon.
“I’m still going to be with them, but I have to see what kind of defense they’re running, things like that.”
After Malzahn was formerly introduced at a press conference later Tuesday, Liner indicated that he had spoken with the coach and seemed to reinforce his Auburn commitment with this tweet: “Just got off the phone wit my new head coach! I Feel a whole lot better about everything! WDE!!”
Rated a five-star prospect by recruiting websites Rivals and Scout, Liner combines with linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive end Carl Lawson as the backbone of an Auburn 2013 recruiting class that Rivals ranks 10th nationally.
Liner said he had a close relationship with Chizik, whose firing had him weighing options other than playing at Auburn.
“It did shock me,” Liner said of Chizik’s firing. “It hurt me a lot. I’ve never been as tight with a coach before as I was with Chizik. At first, it had me looking elsewhere, but I decided that I’m going to play for a school, not a coach.”
While Liner said he still considers himself an Auburn verbal commitment, finality won’t come until Feb. 6, the first day high school seniors can sign with college programs.
“It's still Auburn,” Liner said, “but I’m going to wait to make a final decision until signing day.”
The announcement of Malzahn’s hiring set the Twitter world abuzz. Former AU offensive lineman Lee Ziemba tweeted “It’s going to be a good ride.”
Gardner said he expects Malzahn to move the program forward quickly.
“He’ll do a good job getting us moving forward,” Gardner said.
“There’s no question he has an exciting offense. I trust he will hire a phenomenal defensive coordinator. I’m sure a lot of commitments will be happy.”
Gardner pointed to Arkansas State’s 45-0 win over Middle Tennessee in the recent Sun Belt Conference title game that Malzahn knows what he’s doing.
“I’m sure he’ll hit the ground running,” Gardner said.
The fan base seemed to be divided during the brief coaching search. Some portions wanted current Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, others were behind Malzahn and others wanted former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
Mitchell said he was hoping Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams would get the job. Now that Malzahn is on board, Mitchell said he’s behind him all the way.
“Football is just a part of life,” he said. “My love for the university goes deeper than that. Whoever is the coach, I’ll pull for. I’m gonna get behind him.”
Added Gardner, “He has to unite the fan base quickly and I think he’ll do that. Auburn is Auburn. We’ll be back. It’s cyclical. I believe in the guy.”
Sports Writer Bryan App contributed to this story.
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