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Auburn Panel: Homecoming week

Do you think Gus Malzahn will leave after this season and what kind of circumstances would it take for him to leave the Plains?

Bill Meador: Malzahn has done a great job with his offenses the last two years at two different schools so a lot of colleges will give him a good look after the season. I hope he stays for the continuity of our offense, but wouldn’t at all be surprised if he gets a prime offer. He will surely look to see what AU has coming back to work with, namely Cam Newton.

Jonathan Jenkins: Gus Malzahn is an offensive genius without any doubt. Being mentioned for head coaching positions will come. The perfect coaching marriage for Malzahn would be a place where both he and the institution become recruiting partners. Plus, he demands full control. He only came to Auburn after Chizik promised full control of the offense; something Houston Nutt woudn’t give him at Arkansas.

Rick Dunn: I think that he would need to ask himself two questions: One, does he want to be a head coach and two, is he or will he ever be ready to be a head coach? There is a very different dynamic at work with a head coach position and some are not well suited and may ultimately be unhappy even if they are successful. I think that the earliest that he should consider leaving would be after next year and that he would be foolish to leave for anything less than a high, mid-tier program.

Given the success junior Nick Fairley has found, does he elect to enter the NFL draft?

Bill Meador: He is a man among boys, it seems. This is really his first full year as a starter so he could certianly improve in a number of areas. I think he will take a look and test the waters for the draft.

Jonathan Jenkins: In actuality, I’m more inclined to believe that Fairley will enter the draft earlier than Newton. D-linemen are always in great demand on the next level due to the amount of pass rushing they are required to do. If Fairley gets a major award, he will go pro.

Rick Dunn: I think that is a distinct possibility. He is physically and fundamentally sound and has had a great deal of success this year. It seems as if every other week he is being recognized and awarded by the sports media. I think he is a much larger threat to leave than Newton, who still needs some development.

What impressed you most about Auburn’s play in its win over Ole Miss last week?

Bill Meador: What impressed me about the game was the consistency with which we played on both sides of the ball. We never panicked and stayed with what was working.

Jonathan Jenkins: I knew that Ole Miss would strike early, Houston Nutt style. But I was impressed at how the defense (after giving up 17 points) locked out the Ole Miss offense from fhe endzone for the next 37 minutes. It showed a lot of maturity.

Rick Dunn: Earlier in the year, I responded to a question about Cam Newton’s effectiveness. In my answer I stated that the real test would be when a defense set up to shut down his rushing. We were tested by essentially the same defensive scheme that beat Tebow and Florida (in the Swamp) two years ago. The offense scored 51 points (on the road) and could have scored at least two more touchdowns.

What circumstances would it take for Cam Newton, Gus Malzahn and Nick Fairley all to return to the Plains next season?

Bill Meador: Dare I say, maybe a chance to repeat.

Jonathan Jenkins: Unfinished business. Auburn is playing like a team on a mission. If they end the season with anything incomplete, I believe that everyone will return. Malzahn, Fairley and Newton have bright futures. When the time comes, they will make the decision about their futures. I believe they will see it to the end.

Rick Dunn: I honestly expect them all back. Barring injury, Cam and Nick’s stock will only rise. Gus would be taking a chance that we are not nearly as productive offensively next year. I don’t know the man or if he would make a g0ood head coach. However, there is nothing wrong with being a highly paid offensive coordinator with one of the premier college football programs.

Where have you noticed the most growth and improved play?

Bill Meador: I think the most growth goes to the offense with the line and recievers. The line for fulfilling expectations and the recievers especially for the downfield blocking as well as catching passes they are supposed to catch.

Jonathan Jenkins: I was most impressed by the total team unity. Everyone was cheering one another on regardless of offense, defense or special teams. There is a team spirit that is missing from a lot of college teams, and I can’t remember the last time it was a part of the Auburn program. They really seem to enjoy being around one another…that spells team.

Auburn 63, Chattanooga 10.

Rick Dunn: The defense has improved, but I would characterize that improvement as more of an evolution, with players becoming more comfortable with their assignments. The offense, however, has nearly achieved that eureka moment when everything is “clicking.” I would guess that 85 percent of the play book is available to Malzahn. We still do not execute as well as, say, Oregon, but we have better athletes and are improving weekly.