Running back Michael Dyer still represents one of the most turbulent periods in Auburn football history. His departure in 2012 is still baffling many seasons later.
That calendar year wasn’t exactly the best for the Tigers in general. After posting an 8-5 record during the regular season and securing a victory in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, everything started to unravel.
First, offensive guru Gus Malzahn left for Arkansas State, in somewhat surprising fashion. Then, after he was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl following a robbery scandal, Dyer, then entering his junior year, was rumored to follow suit.
The news was borderline shocking, even after his suspension. Dyer had turned in a productive sophomore campaign, averaging 5.1 yards per carrying and racking up 10 touchdowns. He was in line for an expanded role over the next two years.
Maybe he was frustrated with the suspension. Or maybe he was just that fond of Malzahn’s offensive system. Whatever the reason, Dyer was supposed to end up at Arkansas State, a team not nearly as nationally recognized as Auburn.
And then, quite simply, he didn’t. Not really. He has kicked off the team at Arkansas State soon after arriving and then spent a year not playing football. After that, he landed at powerhouse Louisville, where he appeared in just 15 games over two seasons and never traveled back down to his path to superstardom.
Auburn, meanwhile, felt his departure—at least, they did at first. They went 3-9 in 2012, the season after both Dyer and Malzahn left. But they would not remain in the college football gutter for long.
After just one year away from the team, Malzahn was brought back as head coach. The Tigers went 12-2 in his first season at the helm and made it all the way to the BCS National Championship. Though they lost to Florida State, 34-31, they were officially back on the map.
What’s more, they’ve yet to leave the national conscience.
Auburn has finished above .500 in each of Malzahn’s seven seasons running the show. Their record in Bowl Games isn’t great over this span, at just 2-5, but they’ve developed into one of the mainstays in the National Championship conversation. And considering how they were on the verge of disaster in 2011 following both Malzahn’s and Dyer’s departures, this about-face is a pretty big deal.