It happens to so many G5 teams on a yearly basis: The program excels, wins a bunch of games, finishes the season with a nice bowl, then the P5 takes their head coach away. It happened to a few programs this offseason:
- Appalachian State HC Scott Satterfield leaves for Louisville
- Troy HC Neal Brown leaves for West Virginia
- Temple HC Geoff Collins leaves for Georgia Tech
- Temple HC Manny Diaz leaves (after just one month) for Miami (FL)
What’s important here is the coaching change not mentioned in that list:
- Utah State HC Matt Wells leaves for Texas Tech
Wells took an offer from the Red Raiders he couldn’t refuse, and took almost the entire USU coaching staff with him.
Utah State followed the formula and paid the price for it. They excelled beyond expectations, they won 11 games (including a convincing bowl victory), and they ended the season with their head man taking a P5 job.
It took some time to find a new head coach, but after a long wait a familiar name came back to Logan.
Let’s take a look at the new Utah State coaching staff:
Head Coach Gary Andersen:
- Andersen is back after having coached the Aggies from 2009-12. Andersen left for the Wisconsin job with a record of 26-24 at USU. While in Logan, Andersen’s teams had prolific offenses and sturdy defenses. He comes into his second regime inheriting an offense that had numbers comparable to Alabama and Oklahoma. One big difference, however, is that when Andersen last coached Utah State, they were part of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Mountain West consists of many former WAC members as well, like Boise State, San Jose State, Hawai’i, etc. Let’s see how GA fares in a new conference and how he can handle this explosive offense.
Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Mike Sanford:
- Sanford comes in after having served as Western Kentucky head coach for two years. As far as experience goes, Sanford has been there. He was previously the OC at Notre Dame and the recruiting coordinator at Stanford. Combining both jobs, Sanford was a coach in two Rose Bowls and three Fiesta Bowls. He’s been there for the big games and that experience is crucial for a G5 program like Utah State. Sanford inherits QB Jordan Love, who had a massively successful season with over 3500 passing yards and 32 passing TDs.
Defensive Coordinator Justin Ena:
- Ena is a Utah man through and through. He’s an alma mater and former player at BYU. He was an defensive coordinator at Southern Utah and Weber State. Most recently, he was co-special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Utah. Everywhere he’s been, the defense has been solid. Each squad he’s coached on has had fantastic run defense numbers and a few all-conference linebackers.
Assistant HC/Tight Ends Coach Frank Maile:
- Maile took over the head coaching duties for the New Mexico Bowl and led the Aggies to a dominating performance over North Texas. A former Aggie defensive lineman, Maile has been on the Utah State coaching staff for just about the entirety of his coaching career, sans a few years as DL coach at Vanderbilt. Coach Maile has seen much success as a DL coach, and now must translate that to his biggest role of his career. He’ll be assisting HC Gary Andersen as well as coaching the tight ends, who will need to improve to replace Dax Raymond, who has decided to leave for the NFL Draft a year early.
Offensive Line Coach TJ Woods:
- Woods has been coaching the big guys for years. He started in the junior college ranks coaching either tight ends and/or offensive line for Azusa Pacific and Citrus JC. Woods was previously a coach for Utah State from 2009-12 coaching TEs/OL. He followed GA to Wisconsin and Oregon State before finding himself as the OL coach for WKU last year. He comes to Logan from the Hilltoppers program along with new OC Mike Sanford. Coach Woods’ OLs have been solid everywhere he’s gone, most notably when he was in Madison. His offensive line anchored Melvin Gordon’s incredible 2014 season.
Passing Game Coordinator/WRs Coach Jason Phillips:
- Phillips inherits enormous talent in the passing attack, and will be tasked with continuing the dominance USU saw through the air in 2018. Coach Phillips’ best success came at the University of Houston where, as offensive coordinator, he led Case Keenum to many collegiate records. Phillips has also seen many 1000-yard receiving performances under his tutelage. He brings a ton of passing game experience to the Aggies.
Outside Linebackers Coach Bojay Filimoeatu:
- Coach Filimoeatu played OLD for the Aggies during the first Gary Andersen tenure and, after playing a few games in the NFL, found himself at Oregon State as a QC coach for a season before his most recent stop as linebackers coach at San Jose State. Most notably, Filimoeatu tutored Frank Ginda, who led the NCAA in total tackles in 2017. Bojay clearly has experience and the knowledge to continue maikng Utah State’s linebackers an elite group.
Cornerbacks Coach Mark Orphey:
- Orphey comes in having coached cornerbacks/defense at Texas Southern, South Carolina and, most recently, Montana State. He also played CB at Texas Southern. He’s crafted a few all-conference players under his tutelage and was an All-SWAC player himself in his last two years in college. Orphey is young, but he’s got a good amount of experience and a good knowledge of the position. He will be a welcomed addition to this almost entirely refreshed coaching staff.
Safeties Coach Mike Caputo:
- Coach Caputo also played under Gary Andersen, this time as a safety at Wisconsin from 2012-15. Caputo was a second-team All-Big Ten in his last two seasons in Madison, as he led the team in tackles and was quite the iron man—he played all but one game in his last three years for the Badgers. He was most recently a graduate assistant at LSU, where he worked with the elite LSU secondary for the past two years.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Jordan Hicks:
- S&C Coach Hicks has been coaching for just about a decade now. He’s primarily been a Strength and Conditioning coach but his most recent, and longest tenured, stint came with the University of Utah where he was Assistant Director of Sports Performance from 2012-18. Hicks is a former defensive end, one the stronger position groups on the field, who has had some NFL experience. It’ll be interesting to see what Hicks can do with his first S&C job at the FCS level. It’s not the same environment as past jobs, like Northern Kentucky. There will be heavier pressure and need for success in the weightroom.
These coaches inherit a talented team with only a few issues to sort out and very lofty goals. It is not at all out of the realm of possibility that this team could challenge for a Mountain West Conference title. Shoring up the defense, finding suitable replacements for what was an elite offensive line, and keeping the passing game priority #1 are the keys to making this team a conference title contender and hey, now that UCF lost … that G5 NY6 spot could be open for the taking.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW STAFF? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!