Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> ASU’s Malzahn stops in Beebe

Leader sportswriter

It didn’t take long for football fans to single out the bespectacled man wearing the black visor as he made his way down the hallway of the ASU-Beebe Student Center.

New Arkansas State University head football coach Gus Malzahn made an appearance at ASU-Beebe on Tuesday afternoon for a meet and greet with local fans.

The head Red Wolf was making the first of two stops in central Arkansas in the next several days. He will also be the guest speaker at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club annual sports banquet next Wednesday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Malzahn, a native of Fort Smith, is already a legendary figure in the state of Arkansas for his innovative offensive philosophies, many of which have been borrowed by high-school and college teams around the country, as well as many professional teams.

The assembled group at Beebe ranged from campus employees to bank personnel, as well as the entire Beebe High School football team. Beebe coach John Shannon had an extended conversation with Malzahn at the beginning of the meet-and-greet segment, which was followed by a brief speech from Malzahn.

The new head Wolf boasted the University’s recruiting efforts over the spring, and listed a number of top-ranked recruits who decided to join the ASU ranks.

Malzahn also said the acquisition of Little Rock native and former Auburn star Michael Dyer would bring even more attention to the program, and mentioned the possibility of Dyer being in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy award.

“We’re going to recruit this state, and we’re going to recruit this state hard,” Malzahn said. “Our goal is to be a top 25 team, year in and year out.”

Malzahn also talked about the recent A-State Ambush recruiting blitz, where members of the coaching staff visited all 215 high schools with football teams in the state in the span of a week.

“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Malzahn said. “First of all, to identify players, but also to develop relationships. We want to give everyone ownership in what we’re doing.”

The ASU job is the first time Malzahn has worked in state since his high-profile departure from the University of Arkansas as the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator in 2006 under former head coach Houston Nutt. Malzahn made no direct reference to the U of A, but did sum up his speech by insinuating Red Wolves Nation is on the rise.

“I’m a dreamer; I want our players to be dreamers, I want our fans to dream,” Malzahn said. “Because here’s the deal, we want to make Arkansas State a statewide program. Not just northeast Arkansas, not just Jonesboro, because we’re going to recruit this state. We want to be a program the whole state can take pride in. And hey, this state is big enough for two programs.”