Gus Malzahn is ready for the challenge of UCF football.
“Chip-on-the-shoulder program, chip-on-the-shoulder coach,” he told ESPN. “This place allows me to be me.”
Malzahn is coming off an eight-year run as the head coach of Auburn. He was fired in December, then hired by UCF two months later. He replaces Josh Huepel, who left for Tennessee.
Auburn paid him $21.7 million to leave after a 6-4 finish. He was under pressure with the Tigers from the moment he set foot on campus. That’s just the way it goes when Nick Saban and Alabama are a little more than two hours away.
UCF also finished 6-4 last season, and Malzahn is now striving to turn the one-time also-ran into a major power.
“We have a chance to be the future, and we’re a program that’s going up,” Malzahn said. “I’m blessed to come in here at the right time. Everything’s starting to line up, and I think everybody feels it. We’ve just got to do it now, but the exciting thing is it’s capable of being done.”
Malzahn is off to a good start by default. Junior Dillon Gabriel is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country and a future high draft pick in the NFL.
“I’m at a different point in my life and career,” Malzahn said. “I’ve been at a big program, and we’ve won the whole thing, but there is a refreshing-ness of a place like this that has great potential. I always felt like if the right guy got here and would stay here and build it, they would be able to do it. The timing’s set up perfect for that, and that’s my plan.”
Malzahn was an assistant coach for the 2011 BCS national championship Auburn team.