Utah State Coaching Candidates To Replace Matt Wells
Will a former Aggie be the coach?
Who will be on the sidelines in Logan?
Just when you thought you could safely transition to hoops mode until April, Utah State football comes along on a week without a game and explodes all over your Twitter timeline.
Kliff Kingsbury is out at Texas Tech after five straight losses and a 35-40 overall record over six seasons. Utah State head coach Matt Wells has officially accepted the gig, inking a six-year (!!!) deal with the Red Raiders and bringing with him one of the nation’s top assistants in OC David Yost, DC Keith Patterson, strength coach Dave Scholz, probably some recruits, various equipment managers, a groundskeeper, a florist and at least one Starbucks barista.
With several former Aggie coaches and coordinators now in higher-profile positions around the country, along with an ultra-talented team fresh off a 10-2 season and multiple weeks in the AP Top 25, Utah State is in a relatively strong position to make a great hire — and while we don’t yet know what exactly AD John Hartwell is looking for, some common names have already begun circulating throughout the Aggiesphere.
Here’s your way-too-early list of coaches who might find themselves at home in Cache Valley this spring.
Jay Hill, Weber HC
It’s entirely possible coach Hill stays with the Weber program he so expertly transformed into an FCS powerhouse over the past five seasons. That said, he’s the rare candidate who checks all of Aggie fans’ typical boxes (“Utah ties! Blue collar guy! Learned at the feet of our Lord and Savior Gary Andersen!”), and taking over a talented Aggie program already primed for another big conference run next year could be considered an upgrade.
Coach Hill boasts a career 34-25 record at Weber, knows how to recruit and guys seem to love playing for him. Hartwell would certainly be wise to expand his search past an hour south of Logan, but also shouldn’t overlook one of the most sensible options out there.
…Plus, all those dumb “Ogden is Logan” jokes from BYU fans would almost start to make sense.
Lance Anderson, Stanford DC
The reasoning behind a small but dedicated Anderson hype-crowd seems to be that he knows defense and he knows his way around LDS mission kids. Anderson’s five years as the Stanford’s DC has produced one of the Pac-12’s most consistent defenses. While he hasn’t yet taken the reigns as a program’s head coach, he has spent some time around Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw.
Dave Aranda, LSU DC
Aranda served as the primary catalyst for Utah State’s best defense ever back in 2012 before rightfully earning his way into a tax bracket most of us didn’t know existed working for LSU. He could probably get a better (read: more lucrative) head coaching job elsewhere if he even wants that gig at all, but if ever there were a time for a brief return to Cache Valley to dominate the Mountain West now would be it.
Fun fact: Utah State’s defense allowed just 15.4 points per game under Aranda, and sure some of that had to do with Bobby Wagner and a bunch of scrub conference opponents but still — damn.
Not-so-fun-fact: In all likelihood Aggie fans will only spot Aranda once next year, when USU squares off with LSU in its early-season “pay to get thumped” game.
Gary Andersen, taking a nap somewhere
Todd Orlando, Texas DC
Rumor has it Todd Orlando didn’t much enjoy his time in Logan, but as with Aranda this might be a chance to take over an appealing position for an appealing team for a brief period — if only just to get head coaching experience before leaping back to a P5 school. Orlando would have to take a paycut, though not as drastically as Aranda would. This is a longshot, but that won’t stop the Aggie faithful from playing around with the idea anyway.
Matt Lubick, UW co-OC
Lubick currently serves as the co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Washington, a job he earned shortly after a stellar 2012 season with Duke. That’s…kinda it, to be honest. I mean he’s fine. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He is one of the few coaches to come through the rumor mill who appears primarily focused on offense, and pairing any offensive mind with sophomore QB Jordan Love’s obvious talent would make a lot of sense.
With USU in a great position to be choosy, Lubick would likely have to impress Hartwell to beat out more established interested parties.
Gary Andersen, fetching milk from the fridge
Frank Maile, USU Interim HC
Maile should at least get himself an interview, as he’d likely provide the most seamless transition from the Wells era to a new chapter. It would be quite a leap from co-DC to full-on head coaching duties, but Maile is a former Aggie player who’s now worked alongside Wells, Orlando and Aranda to become the savvy choice if Hartwell is concerned about this current team’s ability to handle big changes.
Maile will coach Utah State in this year’s bowl game and maybe get a chance to prove what he can do amidst the complete chaos this coaching change initiated. Not that you animals care, because you just want Gary back.
St. Gary Andersen, some cushy low-pressure gig at Utah
Yes, there are rumblings that boosters might want Gary back in an attempt to recapture his 2012 magic. And yes, it’s entirely possible Andersen misses being a head coach. There’s comfort in familiarity, and Andersen has earned himself a reputation from players and fans alike as the savior of Utah State football after pulling the Aggies from chaotic outer darkness and gifting them the breath of life eight years ago.
That’s also a helluva lot of pressure to come back to.
More than any other coach that might fill the Aggies’ current vacancy, Andersen would be expected to perform to a near-impossible degree. In an environment where even 10-2 isn’t good enough for some fans, that’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a guy who bounced around three programs in nine years just to settle in back home in Salt Lake.
Even for a man as venerated around Cache Valley as Andersen deservedly is, trying to recapture anything from the past is a one-way ticket to sports hell. Conferences change. Players and coordinators and opponents and schemes change. The idea that a coach who did it once can certainly do it again is baffling.
…Then again, nobody thought he could do it the first time either.
Hartwell says the search will be over in two weeks, and if the last 48 hours are any indication, it should make for an entertaining December.