clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who leads the Aggies Next?

An in depth look at potential candidates for the Utah State head coaching job

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Utah State at LSU Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Gary Andersen is out as head coach of the Utah State Aggies after a return that lasted two seasons. He was 7-9 from 2019-2020 and at his previous stop at Oregon State, he went 7-23, only getting three wins in conference play from 2015-2017. Frank Maile is taking over for Gary Andersen and is 0-1 after a loss to Fresno State and on a side note Jason Shelley has also been dismissed from the team per Frank Maile, so Utah State is moving along quite quickly. The big question for the Aggies is who is going to be the next long term head coach for the Aggies? There are a couple of potential candidates considering this question.

Frank Maile

This may be one of the obvious choices because Frank Maile is currently the interim head coach. Maile played defensive line for the Aggies from 2004-2007. He started as a graduate assistant and then become the defensive line coach from 2011-2018 before serving as the assistant head coach and tight tends coach in 2019 and started this season as the assistant head coach and defensive line coach. He has spent many years with Utah State and someone who has been immersed in the program for this long should be considered for the head coaching position.

Graham Harrell

This may be a bit of a longer shot but Graham Harrell does have experience helping to lead a group of five team that was really struggling to become better in Marshall and also coached for North Texas. He is currently the offensive coordinator for USC and it isn’t impossible to think that Harrell is ready to take the reigns of a group of five program in the west.

Andy Avalos

The name Andy Avalos has been thrown around in the Utah State head coaching search, but it seems very unlikely. Avalos is well known for leading stingy Boise State defenses and also played for the Broncos as a linebacker. Avalos left the Broncos when Oregon came calling and has been with the Ducks ever since. In his first season with Oregon, the Ducks went from 48th in the nation in scoring defense to 9th in scoring defense. Avalos seems more likely to stay with Oregon as a defensive coordinator for the time being or maybe even leave for a head coaching job in the power five. Even though Avalos has been mentioned in the coaching search for Utah State, it doesn’t seem likely that he will end up there.

Jay Hill

Jay Hill is another popular name that is going around in the Utah State head coaching search. He is currently the head coach for Weber State and since his first year in 2014, he is 47-29. Before coaching at Weber State, he was with Utah from 2001-2013. He started as a graduate assistant before serving in a variety of different positions from 2005 to 2013. The Utah connection is something to consider and it is possible that after almost 6 years that Hill is looking for a new challenge, but it is unknown how likely this pick would be.

Rich Rodriguez

Steve Addazio and Todd Graham were surprises for Colorado State and Hawaii and Rich Rodriguez could be an interesting choice for Utah State. Rodriguez played defensive back for West Virginia and was also the head coach for the Mountaineers from 2001-2007. Rodriguez also coached for Salem, both serving as an assistant on staff and as the head coach. Other stops include Glenville State, Tulane, Clemson, Michigan (2008-2010), and Arizona (2012-2017). He is currently the offensive coordinator for Ole Miss but he is a name to keep in mind when thinking about this job search because he has experience at different levels.

Ed Lamb and Jeff Grimes

Ed Lamb has served as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator for BYU for the last five years. He played linebacker and defensive line for Ricks College and BYU from 1994-1996. During his coaching career he has made stops at BYU, Idaho, and San Diego before getting his first head coaching job at Southern Utah, where he coached from 2008-2015. He has been with BYU since 2016 and is a logical candidate in this coaching search. Utah State is a long time rival with BYU, so Ed Lamb is familiar with the Aggies. There are also a couple of different other BYU assistants that Utah State could consider but Ed Lamb stands out since he served as a head coach for a while at Southern Utah.

Jeff Grimes has been with the Cougars ever since 2018 and has done a good job of creating a potent BYU offense which has been on full display this year. Grimes played offensive tackle for UTSA from 1987-1990 and was a graduate assistant for Rice (1995) and Texas A&M (1996-1997). Other stops for Grimes include Hardin-Simmons, Boise State, Arizona State, BYU (twice), Colorado, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and LSU. The offensive coordinator position he holds now is the highest position he has held in his coaching career and it isn’t so hard to think that he could be lured away from BYU given the opportunity to make a name for himself by running a program, not just the offense or an offensive unit.

A Boise State coach

This is appropriately labeled a Boise State coach because there are a number of different Boise State assistants that have had success that could be serious candidates that Utah State could consider.

The first assistant is offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, who has been with Boise State since 2016 and is in his first year as offensive coordinator. He was Boise State’s receivers coach from 2017-2019 and is doing a very nice job in his first year as sole offensive coordinator. Boise State has struggled to keep offensive coordinators for the past couple seasons, to include Zach Hill who left for Arizona State for the same position. Kiesau is a name to keep in mind and can be creativity to the Aggies offense.

Kent Riddle is another Boise State coach to keep in mind. He has been with Boise State for 12 years. He is in his sixth year as the Broncos tight ends coach and also coached tight ends at Colorado, North Texas, and Arkansas State. This may be a more unlikely candidate, but it isn’t impossible.

Jeff Schmedding has been the defensive coordinator for the Broncos for two years now and spent 15 seasons (2004-2018) coaching for Eastern Washington. Similar to offensive coordinators, Boise State has lost defensive coordinators in years past as well. The Boise State defense was quite good in 2019 and though they have had problems this season due to injury and COVID-19, they have still been able to make big plays. If Utah State was looking to go with a more defensive minded coach, this would be the way to go.

There are other names that could be considered such as defensive line coach Spencer Danielson and linebackers coach Zach Alley, but a name to think about if Utah State wants to find a way to get things moving offensively is Matt Miller, who played for Boise State from 2011-2014 and served as the coordinator for Montana State in 2019. He has a little experience but not a ton so that could factor in to Matt Miller not being as serious of a candidate for the Aggies, but it is a possibility.

Morgan Scalley

This is another name that has been thrown around a lot. He has been with Utah since 2007 and has been the defensive coordinator for the Utes since 2016. Utah has always poised a good defense and Scalley has done a good job at keeping that trend going, last year the Utes came within one game of the playoff. Scalley may be an option but he was been with the Utes for many years now and it is really unclear if he would leave the Utes for the other team in Utah in the Aggies after so many years.

Robert Anae and Kelly Poppinga

Robert Anae and Kelly Poppinga are both coaches for the University of Virginia, serving as offensive coordinator and linebackers coach respectively. Anae has been with Virginia since 2016 and played for BYU from 1981-1984 as a center/offensive guard. He was a graduate assistant for Hawaii from 1986-1987 and had his first coaching position as an offensive line coach for Ricks college from 1992-1995. Some of Anae’s other stops include Boise State, UNLV, Texas Tech, BYU (twice), Arizona, and now Virginia. Anae has ties with two current Mountain West teams and one former in BYU.

Kelly Poppinga played linebacker for Utah State from 2003-2004 before moving over to BYU to play for the Cougars for his final three seasons (2005-2007). He spent his time before coaching at Virginia with BYU serving as the linebackers coach and special teams coach and holds the same position with Virginia where he has been for two years. Poppinga may be a name to consider because of his ties with the state of Utah.

Major Applewhite

Major Applewhite played quarterback for Texas from 1998-2001 and served as a graduate assistant for the Longhorns from 2003-2004. He made stops at Syracuse, Rice, and Alabama as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before returning to Texas in 2008 to coach running backs from 2008-2012 and quarterbacks in 2013. From 2015-2016 Applewhite served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Houston before becoming head coach for the Cougars. From 2016-2018 he led Houston to a 15-11 record, which included a win over Oklahoma, and was 0-3 in bowl games. Applewhite is a very creative mind offensively and that could certainly be something that Utah State could use to their advantage as their offense has sputtered since the 2018 season under Matt Wells.

Your Turn

This are a lot of different names and there are plenty more out there. Is there someone specific that Utah State should really focus on? Should they go with a more offensive minded coach rather than a defensive minded coach in a conference where offense is key to winning games and having a successful season?