Utah State’s offense will be looking to stay the course and score points in 2012 under first-year coordinator Matt Wells, who is in his second season with the program after coaching the quarterbacks in his first year at his alma mater.
Wells was a three-year letterman for Utah State at quarterback from 1994-96 and earned his bachelor's degree in business marketing.
During the 2011 season, Utah State’s high-octane spread offense was statistically one of the best in the country as it led the Western Athletic Conference and ranked sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (282.69). USU also ranked first in the WAC and 18th in the nation in passing efficiency (151.8), first in the WAC and 23rd in the nation in points per game (33.62), second in the WAC and 20th in the nation in total yards per game (457.31) and second in the WAC and 33rd in the nation in fewest sacks allowed per game (1.38).
Utah State also established school records for total offense (5,945 yards), rushing yards (3,675), total points (437) and total touchdowns (60) during the 2011 campaign.
With just over two weeks until Utah State kicks off the 2012 season at home against Southern Utah on Aug. 30, Wells spent a few minutes talking about the upcoming season and what Aggie fans can expect from the USU offense this fall.
What is it like for you, a former Aggie player, to be not only a coach at Utah State, but the team’s offensive coordinator?
“I think it's a blessing. It's an extreme honor to know that Coach (Gary) Andersen has trusted me with that. It's an honor anywhere, but it's extra special to be at your alma mater. There's an added incentive and added pressure, but no more pressure than I throw at myself. It's comforting to know, when you have great players and a great staff around you, that it's got a chance to be an exciting offense.”
Talk about your transition to offensive coordinator this year and how that has been for you.
“It's been smooth. Aided by being in this offense for two years now under both Coach (Dave) Baldwin and Coach Andersen, we've tweaked it and changed it a little bit, but the nuts and bolts of it are the same. It's something I've been around and been familiar with, so we're just trying to mold it and make it fit with the young men we have and their talent.”
Talk about your relationship with assistant coach Mike Sanford and how his background as both a head coach and offensive coordinator will help you.
“Coach Sanford has been great, better than I hoped for, and better than advertised when you talk to other coaches around the country. He's been extremely supportive, really insightful to techniques and schematic things that we're doing, just based on his background. He's been a tremendous support for me.”
What is your offensive philosophy going to be at Utah State?
What can Aggie fans expect from a Matt Wells-coached offense?
“Hopefully that we're fun to watch; we're exciting, that we're explosive, that we take calculated risks. But more than anything that we give our players the chance to be successful and use their talents to the fullest. Hopefully, that will translate into a lot more wins.”
Will fans see a different Utah State offense this year, as opposed to previous years under coach Andersen where USU ran the ball the majority of the time, especially without Robert Turbin and Michael Smith?
“You'd see a different offense no matter who the coordinator is just because the personnel is changing. As our team changes and the people change, hopefully we're smart enough as coaches to put them in positions where they can be successful. It will be a little bit of a change, but most of that is personnel change.”
“The biggest key in the passing game is timing and familiarity. When you have two returning quarterbacks (Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy) who have been in the system, been through the off-season and two summers together and you have a lot of returning receivers, hopefully that breeds confidence and familiarity. That should create a better timing and awareness of where is going to be. We have that; our kids have gone through that together. Those two quarterbacks are very stingy with the football and that's something that we preach. I'd rather see it five rows deep in the stands than up for grabs. As we continue to work on that, hopefully we become more explosive in the passing game.”
Talk about the quarterback situation. You have two talented, proven starting quarterbacks at your disposal. How will that dynamic be handled this year?
"It's been great. It basically picked up where it did last fall and spring. They're both tremendous young men, and they handle the whole situation perfectly. They're very supportive of each other and tremendous to have not only as players, but as ambassadors for the university.”
As we start camp, is there an area offensively that jumps out at you or has surprised you?
“It's still early. I think we're going to be able to run the ball between the tackles a little bit better than I expected. I think we'll continue to use the talent of our backs as they grow and mature in their skill development.”
What are the challenges offensively when playing other WAC schools?
“I think the challenge is just to continue to stay ahead of the curve. As you go deeper into conference play, your resume or your offense and your tendencies start to build up over video, so hopefully you've been successful. You know what's successful and can continue to do the same things, but change it up, maybe with a different personnel group. I like to say different icing on the cake. You're still doing the things that are successful, but you're hiding it or masking your intentions a little bit.”Comment on this story
Offensively, are there goals or percentages that you are looking toward on a game-by-game basis?
“First of all, we want to be in the top three in the WAC in every category. The biggest thing is throwing the ball and having a really high completion percentage, so that translates over into our quarterback rating and touchdown-interception ratio. The biggest thing we can improve on is taking care of the football and continuing to be balanced.”
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.