December 12, 2013

First impression

AUBURN | Alex Kozan, the Tigers' starter at left tackle, knew about Gus Malzahn's reputation and assumed things on the Plains would improve dramatically under the new coach's leadership.

He was correct about that.

Yet Kozan, who was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team Thursday, still feels like he undersold his coach. Malzahn's offenses typically lean on the run game, yet the Tigers have thrived this season as a team that runs more than 70 percent of the time.

That number seems arbitrary, but Kozan says it's proof of Malzahn's genius.

"People don't even realize what he's done -- he built this base all on what our strengths are," Kozan said. "He sees things that other people don't even think to look at. So we put in the work, starting from what this new staff came in, and he gives us the direction. It's all taken off because Coach Malzahn changed his plan to fit us."

Kozan has been a big part of that evolution.

The redshirt freshman didn't lock down his starting job until late August and didn't seem to have the lateral agility to thrive as a pulling guard. Yet he worked diligently on his footwork and faithfully followed strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell's training guidelines throughout the offseason.

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