FAYETTEVILLE - New Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn knows he'll be under more scrutiny than most new coordinators until he proves himself at the collegiate level.
Going directly from high school coaching to running a Southeastern Conference offense is a big step, Malzahn admits.
"That motivates me," he said Friday. "I've always been a dreamer and somebody that's not scared to take on a challenge.
"I know from here on out I'll be representing high school coaches all around the country with this opportunity. I understand that and understand the state of Arkansas is counting on me.
"I'm not going to disappoint them."
Malzahn will be an oddity in major conference football next season. As of now, no other offensive coordinator in a BCS conference was named to the post straight from a high school job. Not only that, none are just one job removed from coaching in high school.
That didn't stop Arkansas coach Houston Nutt from choosing Malzahn, Springdale's coach of five years, to take over offensive coordinator duties.
"It's a great day for high school coaches," Nutt said. "My father was a high school coach for 33 years. ... You can name names after name. Larry Coker was a high school coach, Jimmy Johnnson - high school coach, Pat Jones, on and on and on. I'm happy ... that we have another great high school football coach that's coming to join us on the college level."
Malzahn is Nutt's first offensive coordinator since he took over in Fayetteville. In his first eight seasons, Nutt has served as his own offensive coordinator, calling his own plays with the input of his assistants.
The hire leaves only three head coaches in BCS conference schools acting as their own offensive coordinator. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Arizona State's Dirk Koetter and Stanford's Walt Harris all act as their own offensive coordinators.
The transition, while not easy, won't take long, Malzahn said.
"Football is a very simple game," he said. "Defenses, if they're sound, there's only a handful of things they can do. To be effective, you have to be able to recognize the defense, you have to have an offense that is able to take what the defense gives you, and that means either running the football of throwing the football."
Malzahn attended some Arkansas games last season - as a fan - and while he tried to relax, found himself slipping back into the role of coach.
"I'd be lying to say I wasn't watching the different defenses, the players that Arkansas had last year on the field," he said. "So the coach in me did come out, but I was wanting to go there and relax."
Malzahn isn't worried about moving his no-huddle, hurry-up offense to a bigger stage.
"I'm at my best under extreme pressure and I'm not scared to go out on that limb and take that chance," Malzahn said. "This is something that I've been waiting for my whole career and it's about seizing the moment and I expect to seize the moment and hit the ground running."
Now, Malzahn gets to live out his dream of coaching in college without moving out of his Springdale house.
"I've got a daughter that is going to be a senior," he said. "To make her move would've been disastrous around my household. To be able to live in the same house, the daughters go to the same school and to be able to coach here, you couldn't ask for much better."
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