Mike Norvell, Gus Malzahn are two Tigers with similar stripes

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Memphis’ Mike Norvell have presumably emerged as two of the top candidates to become the next head football coach at Arkansas. Both will lead their programs into conference championship games Saturday, with the Razorbacks expected to make a move one way or another shortly afterward.

The Hogs’ fan base doesn’t seem to have a clear favorite between Malzahn and Norvell, both of whom have ties to the state of Arkansas. But interestingly enough, Malzahn and Norvell might not be all that different in how they approach Xs and Os.

Both are considered among the top offensive minds in college football, and they run relatively similar systems. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, considering they worked together a decade ago.

When Malzahn left his post as offensive coordinator at Arkansas after just one season in 2006, he landed in the same role at Tulsa. He spent two seasons with the Golden Hurricane, and during that time, Norvell worked under him as a graduate assistant coaching wide receivers.

The offenses they guided during the 2007 and 2008 seasons under head coach Todd Graham were something to behold. Tulsa averaged 544 yards per game in 2007 and 570 in 2008, leading the nation both seasons. In 2008, the Golden Hurricane went 11-3 and played Arkansas to a 7-point game in Fayetteville during Bobby Petrino’s first season coaching the Razorbacks.

Malzahn moved on to become offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2009, winning a national championship the following year with Cam Newton at quarterback. Malzahn parlayed that success into a head coaching job at Arkansas State in 2012. After Auburn plummeted to 3-9 under Gene Chizik that same year, the Tigers brought Malzahn back to become the head coach.

Gus Malzahn’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Arkansas State 1 9-3 .750
Auburn 5 44-20 .688
Total 6 53-23 .697

Norvell’s career took off once Malzahn left Tulsa. Norvell was promoted to passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach under Graham for the 2009 season. After two years in that role, Graham made Norvell his offensive coordinator at Pitt (2011) and Arizona State (2012-2015).

Mike Norvell’s career record as a head coach:

School Yrs. Record Pct.
Memphis 2 17-6 .739
Total 2 17-6 .739

It’s easier to make the case Malzahn and Norvell helped make Graham’s career than the other way around. In years that Graham had Malzahn as his offensive coordinator, his teams were a combined 21-7. With Norvell as the offensive coordinator, Graham’s teams were 55-35. In three seasons without either one, Graham’s teams are a mediocre 19-18.

If Arkansas fans prefer Malzahn over Norvell because of his SEC experience, that’s understandable. But if he chooses to stay at Auburn, don’t be too disappointed. History suggests these two have a lot in common, and the Hogs would likely be getting an exciting offense either way.

The post Mike Norvell, Gus Malzahn are two Tigers with similar stripes appeared first on SEC Country.

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