High school coaches with a similar offensive philosophy, Malzahn and Hugh Freeze crossed paths when Malzahn was running the show at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale and Freeze was coaching at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. Getting to know each other more and more throughout the years as the two crossed paths as both advanced to the college ranks with Malzahn and Arkansas and Freeze at Ole Miss as the recruiting coordinator, the friendship continued to build.
An even stronger bond formed the last two years when Freeze took over as the head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, Malzahn's third season as Auburn's offensive coordinator. When Freeze decided to make the move to Ole Miss later that year it opened up the door for Malzahn to follow him in Jonesboro.
Now the two get ready to face off against each other for the first time as head coaches and Malzahn said it's just a tough week. While he admits it makes for difficulties, in the end it's all about winning and that takes precedence.
"He's definitely a friend, one of my best friends in this business," Malzahn said. "We came from a similar background, a similar path. He's very talented. He's good at what he does. He's a great communicator and a very good football mind.
"You have a job to do," Malzahn said. "You have to do whatever is best to help your team win. After the game we'll get back to normal. This is a big game for both of us and we both understand that. After the game we'll go back to normal."
With both making the move from the high school ranks it has only helped to strengthen their bond along with guys like Chad Morris at Clemson as well. Knowing that many guys don't the opportunities they've had to prove themselves, Malzahn said it makes him appreciate what he's got.
"First of all, I feel very blessed to be doing what I'm doing," Malzahn said. "Just for the fact that I was given the opportunity. There's a lot of great high school coaches out there that could be very successful in college that just haven't had the opportunity. Me and Hugh have talked about that numerous times, that we feel blessed that we were given the opportunity."
With the goal of winning and and improving to 4-1 on the season, the toughest job for both coaches this week may be to bring something different to the table. Having people on both sides that are familiar with the style and schemes each coaching staff employs, Malzahn said it makes it an important week for adjustments.
"I think that's every week," Malzahn said. "Every situation's different and you've just got to schematically try to give your team the best chance of being successful with what they're trying to take away. As the game gets going on, you kind of learn more that goes on through the course."