By The Associated Press
JONESBORO, Ark. — Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will be the new football coach at Arkansas State.
Sports information director Jerry Scott said that Malzahn will be introduced as the new coach during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Malzahn will return to the state where he was a successful high school coach before leaving for college football.
Former Red Wolves coach Hugh Freeze left the school last week to take the job at Ole Miss.
Arkansas State (10-2) will play Northern Illinois in the Godaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 8.
The 46-year-old Malzahn has served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three seasons, helping the Tigers win the national championship last season.
He won the Broyles Award last season, recognizing college football’s top assistant coach, and helped Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton set nine school records in 2010 — including points per game (41.2) and total offense (499.2).
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Malzahn will coach with Auburn through the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia on Dec. 31.
“I’m very happy for Gus and the opportunity that awaits him at Arkansas State,” Chizik said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Gus has always had the strong desire to become a head coach and the chance for him to return to his home state that he is so familiar with, will be very beneficial.
“He’s meant a tremendous amount to our program the past three years, helping our offense and our program achieve unprecedented heights, winning a BCS national championship and setting countless offensive records. Gus has experienced success in each stop of his coaching career and I have no doubt that he will have similar results at Arkansas State. We look forward to having Gus stay with us through the bowl game and hope to send him out with a victory.”
Malzahn began his coaching career in northeast Arkansas at Hughes High School, eventually moving on and winning two state championships at the private school Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark.
He later took over at Springdale High in the state’s largest classification, going 14-0 in 2005 and winning the state championship while finishing in the top five in most national high school polls.
That team featured star players such as former USC quarterback Mitch Mustain and Tennessee Titans receiver Damian Williams.
Malzahn brought Mustain and Williams with him to Arkansas when he was hired as the offensive coordinator there for the 2006 season under then-coach Houston Nutt.
After a season filled with conflict with Nutt behind the scenes, one that led to the transfers of Mustain and Williams to USC, Malzahn left for the same position at Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane had one of the nation’s top offenses for two seasons under Malzahn, who was hired at Auburn before the 2009 season.
Arkansas State won 10 games this season under Freeze for the first time since 1986, when it was a member of the I-AA Southland Conference. The Red Wolves were 45-63 in nine seasons before that under former coach Steve Roberts, but Freeze’s enthusiasm and energy quickly took hold in Jonesboro, Ark.
The school promoted a “Feel the Freeze” ticket campaign in the preseason, named for the former Memphis, Tenn., high school coach. He coached left tackle Michael Oher, who was later featured in the best-selling book and popular movie “The Blind Side.”
The wins quickly followed, with Arkansas State securing an undefeated run through the Sun Belt Conference with a 45-14 win over Troy. The Red Wolves’ only losses this season came to Illinois and Virginia Tech.