BYU, Utah State football: Coaching changes have been tough on Cougar, Aggie recruits
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Recent coaching changes at both BYU and Utah State have proved difficult for recruits committed to both programs. Many of those commits pledged early after extensive recruitment periods where they forged strong relationships with the existing coaching staffs — some of whom are now gone or, in BYU’s case, are in limbo.
Take Bingham’s Keegan Hicks, who committed to BYU almost exactly one year ago. The Miner standout offensive lineman was recruited heavily by coaches Mark Weber and Brandon Doman.
“Those two were about it as far as contact I’d have with BYU coaches,” Hicks said. “I grew to really love those guys and trust those guys. I really wanted to play for both of them at BYU, but Weber is now gone and I have no idea if Doman is going to be there or not. Hopefully I get some answers soon.”
Utah State commits have largely been in the same boat, although there has since been some resolution about whom they'll be playing for. New Aggie coach Matt Wells has worked well to retain and build strong relationships with many of Utah State’s existing recruits, but it hasn’t been easy for him or for them.
“I remember just being shocked when I heard coach (Gary) Andersen was leaving for Wisconsin. I didn’t believe it and thought it was a joke when I first heard it,” said Gunnison linebacker Braden Harris, who committed to Utah State this past summer. “After thinking about it I really couldn’t blame him for leaving for a program like Wisconsin, but it was still difficult.”
Wells being retained and promoted to head coach definitely helped ease concerns for Harris and probably for many other Aggie commits.
“I know coach Wells and like him,” Harris said. “He called me almost right after he was hired as their head coach and knowing that he’s been there and knows me already certainly helped with things. I wasn’t even sure if Utah State still wanted me after hearing Andersen left, but coach Wells assured me that they do and I’m still very excited to join and play for Utah State.”
Hicks, meanwhile, hasn't yet heard from his new position coach and offensive coordinator, but is hopeful that will change as early as Monday. Unlike Harris he has no history with his new coach (Robert Anae), but remains optimistic.
“I know coach Anae is a great offensive line coach and I’m anxious to meet him and get to know him,” Hicks said. “I trust coach (Bronco) Mendenhall to do what’s best for the program and I fully trust that this move will help the program. It’s still really hard though and I hope they keep Doman on staff because I seriously love the guy. I trust him and I really want him to be part of the staff at BYU.”
Hicks has reached out to coaches — specifically to defensive coaches Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga — and was told to be patient and wait for things to be resolved. Coach Doman reached out to Hicks on Sunday night and wasn’t able to give him a definitive answer whether he’d be at BYU or not.
“I guess it’s up to coach Anae and I’ve heard he wants to keep Doman on staff, but it’s now up to Doman to decide if he wants to stay,” Hicks said. “I’m just like everyone else, I guess — just waiting to hear about what is going to happen. I’m excited to meet with coach Anae, but it’s still tough since I don’t have any history or any relationship with him and I’m just going to sign with BYU in a month.”
Despite the dramatic changes occurring on BYU’s offensive staff, Mendenhall remains as the Cougar head coach and, for that reason, Hicks considers himself firmly committed.
“Although almost all my contact was with Weber and Doman it’s Bronco Mendenhall who I committed to and he’s still there,” Hicks said. “I just hope that Anae likes me and has plans for me because BYU is really my only option right now. After I committed I turned away a lot of schools, so it’s just BYU now. I trust that I’ll build a strong relationship with Anae like I did with coach Weber, so yeah, I’m real anxious to meet with him.”
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