UConn makes bold statement with hiring of Auburn OC

It has been written that Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn have been “nearly inseparable” since 1996 when Malzahn was hired as head coach at Shiloh Christian High School in Arkansas. And when Malzahn hired Lashlee as Auburn’s offensive coordinator in December 2012, he called Lashlee his “right-hand man.”

As of Wednesday night, they are now going their separate ways. UConn stunned the college football world by hiring Lashlee, 33, away from Auburn. He is considered one of the youngest and brightest offensive coaches in college football.

The move proves returning UConn coach Randy Edsall is committed to bringing a more exciting offense to the Huskies in 2017. Edsall announced that Lashlee, offensive cooridator the past four seasons at Auburn, has been named to the same position at UConn. Internet site SBNation.com called Lashlee’s move “shocking.”

Of course, UConn athletic director David Benedict came to Storrs from Auburn last year, when Warde Manuel left the Huskies for Michigan.

“I am thrilled to have Rhett join our staff as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach,” Edsall said in UConn’s statement. “He is one of the brightest offensive minds in college football and I know that his experience around some of the highest-powered offenses and top players in the country is going to be an incredible benefit to our program.”

UConn announced Lashlee agreed to a three-year contract at a base salary of $350,000. Lashlee reportedly was being paid $600,000 annually at Auburn.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee wants to turn around UConn's offense

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee wants to turn around UConn’s offense

“I’m excited to be joining Coach Edsall’s staff and help him get our program to where we, our fans and student-athletes want it to be,” Lashlee said in the statement. “Randy is a proven winner and has done it here at UConn before and I’m thrilled to be a part of his staff. I’m humbled that Coach has trusted me with the opportunity to run the offense and work closely with his staff to make our fans proud of this team. Go Huskies.”

Lashlee also told AuburnTigers.com the following:

“It’s probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, definitely in my professional career,” Lashlee said. “Auburn’s very dear to us. I’ve spent a total of six years here, two different times. All four of our kids were born here. We just love everything about Auburn. The Auburn family is always going to be very dear to us and a part of us.

“The opportunity to work for Randy Edsall, who has had success at a high level and success at UConn, and just have the opportunity to run the offense, and that’s something he’s given me to do. I’m grateful for that.

“I’m obviously very close with Coach Malzahn. Our relationship will always be good. He’s been very supportive. I’m very appreciative to him for the opportunity he gave me at Auburn.”

Lashlee was a FBS coordinator at Arkansas State before the age of 30. He has been described as “the antithesis” of Malzahn, a smooth and calm coach compared to Malzahn’s more frenetic approach.

UConn has had one of the worst offenses nationally in recent seasons. Under coach Bob Diaco, fired effective Jan. 2, the Huskies gained 3,840 yards last season and ranked 123 out of 128 schools in Division I. Auburn didn’t have one of its best offensive seasons but still ranked No. 43 in the nation with 5,730 yards.

“Rhett has been a valuable asset to our program, helping Auburn to a national championship as a graduate assistant and another national championship appearance in 2013,” Malzahn said in the statement. “Our offenses have achieved great success and he has been a big part of that. This is a great opportunity for Rhett to implement and run his own offense. I’ve known Rhett for two decades and he’s a man of great character and integrity and this is another step towards his goal to become a head coach.”

Lashlee helped Auburn to the 2013 SEC Championship and BCS Championship berth and managed one of the more prolific offenses in college football during his tenure. The 2013-14 seasons were the best back-to-back offensively in school history, and the 2014 squad set an Auburn record for total offense. Lashlee also served as the quarterback coach.

Lashlee has been a finalist for the Broyles Award, presented to the nation’s top assistant coach, on two occasions. In 2013, Auburn had the second biggest turnaround in college football history. Starting QB Nick Marshall did not practice until August, but Lashlee tutored the junior college transfer to 3,044 yards of total offense (1,976 passing, 1,068 rushing), 14 TD passes and 12 rushing TDs.

According to the biography released by UConn, Lashlee was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State (2012) and Samford (2011) and also served as a graduate assistant at Auburn (2009-10) and Arkansas (2006-08). While at Auburn as an offensive graduate assistant during the 2009-10 seasons, Lashlee assisted Malzahn with all aspects of the offense and coached the slot receivers in 2010. In 2009, the Tigers finished 8-5 winning the Outback Bowl. During the 2010 season he helped the Tigers finish 14-0, winning the SEC title and the BCS National Championship behind Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton. Lashlee coached at Springdale (Ark.) High School in 2004-05, working with the quarterbacks and 2005 National Player of the Year Mitch Mustain.

Earlier this week, Edsall announced the hirings of Jon Wholley (linebackers), Terry Richardson (assistant head coach/running backs), Corey Edsall (tight ends) and Ryan Steinberg (director of football operations).

Lashlee graduated from Arkansas in 2006 with a degree in marketing and business administration. He received his master’s degree in higher education from Auburn in 2009. He is married to the former Lauren Lee of Rogers, Ark., an Arkansas business graduate. They have twin sons, Thomas and Hudson, and twin daughters, Rowyn and Scarlet.

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