Even the best coaches need reminders at times, though. And in some instances, it has nothing to do with adding a wrinkle to a game plan. Auburn's Gus Malzahn found himself in such a situation three years ago.
At the time, Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator, and before the season began, he was constantly critical of his new starting quarterback, Cam Newton. Malzahn’s wife, Kristi, picked up on it and expressed her concern.
He said it was a much-needed wake-up call.
“I was extremely hard on Cam and would push him and push him,” Malzahn recalled Sunday during the final pregame BCS news conference. “She just noticed that, ‘Hey, you need to make sure he knows you care about him.’ So that night before the game I let him know I'm a real person and that I care about him, and that helped our relationship moving forward.”
It also helped Auburn win a national championship in 2010, as Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to a 14-0 record.
Malzahn said he now tries to let every player know he cares about them more than just on the football field. Developing relationships came easily when he was still a high school coach, with less scrutiny on both him and his players. It’s much more difficult to do so in the high-stakes world of major college football — especially in the SEC, which has won the last seven national championships.
“I'm just very fortunate that we've got some great players,” he said. “We're (an) extremely close group. Our coaches have done a great job developing that trust and that relationship with our players, and I think that's one of the keys to turning this thing around.”
How was he able to build that chemistry so quickly?
Just take a look at his background. Moving up from the high school ranks — and dealing with teenagers on a daily basis — has been a tremendous asset to draw upon.
“In high school, kids aren't much different than college kids,” he said. “It's all about relationships and that bond.”