By James Crepea | email@example.com AL.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 20, 2017 at 7:15 PM, updated January 20, 2017 at 7:16 PM
Auburn's offensive coordinator search, nearing the end of its ninth day, is hinging on a high stakes showdown over power and control between coach Gus Malzahn and those with influence over the program, a source told AL.com.
Malzahn, who enters a pivotal fifth season leading the program, had a short list of candidates to succeed Rhett Lashlee, who left for the same position at UConn on Jan. 11.
That short list included former Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and North Carolina State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, both of who have worked under Malzahn. AuburnSports.com also reported Lindsey and Drinkwitz were among Malzahn's preferred candidates.
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A source indicated those candidates did not receive a favorable reaction from people with influence over the program, who felt Briles, now at Florida Atlantic, lacks experience and Lindsey and Drinkwitz, while familiar with Malzahn's offense were also too close to him.
A list of preferred candidates was provided to Malzahn by athletic director Jay Jacobs, the source said, which was composed of comparatively more experienced coaches, including the Texas A&M's Noel Mazzone, who reportedly went from the possible lead candidate to staying in College Station in a matter of hours on Thursday.
Attempts to reach Jacobs, who was at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week, have been unsuccessful.
With Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich pulling his name from consideration, Mazzone staying put, former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich preferring to wait for a head coaching opportunity, Jake Spavital landing at West Virginia and several other prominent offensive coordinators rumored to have been at least considered, if not offered the job, where Auburn goes next is unclear.
Malzahn is understandably comfortable with Lindsey, a former head coach at multiple Alabama high schools and analyst at Auburn in 2013, and Drinkwitz, his running backs coach at Arkansas State in 2012 and offensive coordinator at Boise State in 2015 and NC State last season.
Though with Auburn experiencing offensive struggles in 2015 and a 1-3 finish to 2016, the program's powerbrokers wanting the new hire to offer a different perspective is not irrational either.
With less than 12 days to national signing day, the critical hire could down to a test of wills.