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USU football: Kevin McGiven looking to fine-tune Aggie offense in first year as offensive coordinator

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 11:50 a.m. MDT

After three seasons away, Kevin McGiven returns to the Utah State football program as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He spent the 2009 season on Gary Andersen’s staff as an assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

McGiven comes to Logan after spending the 2011 season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Montana State. Prior to that, McGiven spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Memphis overseeing the quarterbacks, while serving as the assistant head coach of offense.

A Utah native, McGiven played one season at Eastern Arizona Junior College and later played wide receiver at Louisiana Tech. He finished his bachelor's degree in business from Utah Valley University in 2001.

With spring practice in full swing, McGiven discussed his plans and goals for the offensive side of the football as the Aggies prepare for the first year of Mountain West Conference competition.

Talk about how things have gone during your first few months on the job and what you have been focusing on thus far?

“It’s gone really well. Right now we’re focused on spring ball. When I got here it was all about recruiting and trying to get a good class signed. Our focus has really shifted to our players, their development and trying to identify the areas that needed addressing from last year and the areas that we can improve. That’s pretty much the focus right now. Spring ball is about the development of our young guys and getting our veterans a little more experience. We’re just getting the offense situated.”

Was there one reason why you decided to come back to Utah State?

“Utah is home for me. That’s a big part of it. It’s somewhere where my family and I feel comfortable. The first time I was here, I really got to see what Utah State could be. It had great facilities in place and you could sense the commitment from the administration and the fan base. You could tell it had the potential to really take off. When I was gone they were able to establish that and establish a winning culture and turn things around. It got me more and more excited to be a part of it.”

What changes jump out at you as far as the team and players go, compared to when you were here in 2009?

“With the players, there are things that have been instilled in them. A lot of that process started when I was here the first time. You can see those philosophies taking hold with the players in their work ethic and understanding what it takes to win football games. There’s been a cultural change in terms of that work ethic and the expectations. You can see where the players were before, questioning themselves and having a little bit of doubt because they hadn’t experienced success. They’ve experienced it now and it makes them hungrier and hungrier to achieve more and to get better. That was a big difference that I noticed. Facilities keep improving and you continue to see the support from the fan base and administration get better and better every year. It’s exciting.”

On the offensive side of the ball, do you see a drastic improvement in talent from 2009?

“Definitely in some areas. The system offensively has kind of been in place since I’ve been here. You have guys that understand the offense more and more because it’s been in place. That system has been able to grow and that’s been one aspect of it. Talent-wise, you come in and in my case see the quarterback situation and the talent there. We’re really talented on the offensive line. That’s much more stable than when I was here the first time, both in terms of the first group and then the depth that we have. We have some really talented players in some other spots that still need some development. That’s going to be the case a lot of times when you have young players and have to replace some really good ones from the previous year. They’ve done a good job recruiting here over the last couple of years.”

Do you share a similar offensive philosophy to coach Wells as far as being aggressive on offense?

“I think that’s probably one of the things that got me hired here. Philosophically we really see eye-to-eye and he could probably tell that through the interview process. I think that was a big part of it. We run a multiple personnel-based offense and I’ve always believed in that. It gives you the leeway to structure the offense to fit the personnel that you have. He believes in having a fast-paced tempo and being really aggressive and balanced. I think it was just a good fit with coach Wells, philosophically.”

What can Aggie fans expect from USU’s offense moving forward with you as offensive coordinator?

“There might be some wrinkles here and there just from what I saw previously and from evaluating what they did last year, where I think we can improve in certain areas. There won’t be any drastic changes schematically. Some people may not even notice some of the changes that are taking place where we’re tweaking things here and there. Overall, philosophically it’s the same system, maybe just with a wrinkle or two. Coach Wells has listened to the ideas and there are a lot of them that we’re implementing now in spring ball. We’ll just kind of evaluate that stuff this spring and see what we can carry forward into the season to form our identity. There will always be a little bit of a change based on what your personnel is year to year.”

What are your impressions of Chuckie Keeton?

“He’s a really, really impressive person first of all. His work ethic is unbelievable. His drive to improve is amazing. He’s still considered a bit of a young player, after you’ve started and have success, quarterbacks sometimes tend to get the sense that they’ve ‘arrived.’ You never get that sense with him. He comes out every single day to work and to get better. He has unbelievable leadership in terms of the offense. He’s got a great understanding of our system. Coach Wells has done a really great job with him, teaching him the ins and outs of the offense. He had that foundation before I got here. I’ve helped him with some technique things and he’s embraced that, trying to incorporate it into his game. The fact that he’s constantly trying to learn and is already such a great talent is amazing. His ability to retain information is probably the best that I’ve been around.”

Utah State lost an All-American running back and its top five receivers from 2012. How will that affect the offense heading into 2013?

“That definitely has an effect. When you’re talking about that, you’re talking about some of the best that have ever been at Utah State. With Kerwynn Williams, Matt Austin, Chuck Jacobs, Kellen Bartlett at tight end, there are a lot of talented guys who have been here the last couple years. It’s tough to replace that, but there’s some depth and some talent behind them that just haven’t gotten the game experience because they’ve had those guys in front of them. Our job as coaches is to recruit the talent and then develop them so they’re ready to go. We’re still in the process of finding out what we can be, what groups we can get into personnel wise. We’re trying to find some play makers at the wide receiver position and find someone that can replace Kerwynn. Joe Hill has done an excellent job this spring. He made a lot of plays this fall and did a good job. He’s a proven player based on what he did. Then we have D.J. Tialavea at the tight end position, who had a lot of valuable experience last year, along with Keegan Andersen. There are some quality guys at those positions, they just have to continue to improve. I feel good about where we’re at with our personnel.”

What are your impressions of the team thus far with two weeks of spring practice in the books?

“They’ve got a really, really strong work ethic. You don’t have to coach that very often with this group, so that’s a key for me. When you go out there, you can focus on the technique, fundamentals and execution of the scheme and not coach the guys to play hard. That’s always a good starting point. With the guys that are veterans, being able to get out there and pick up where they left off in execution and running the system has been nice. Some of the younger guys have had to keep up with that. To have guys that understand it and can set the precedent for them has been really good to see. Through five practices we’ve continued to progress in a lot of areas.”

What must happen in 2013 for Utah State to be successful on offense?

“Well we have to score points. We just have to control what we can control, that’s something coach Wells tells them all the time. We have to control our effort and our attitude. We have to worry about us and the execution of our offense and the things we’re asking the kids to do. We just need to be consistent with that throughout the year. It’s a long season. They’ve got to be in good shape physically and on top of their game mentally. They need to be able to put the preparation time in and commit to that, as well as commit to their academics and their workouts, all the things they have on their plate. It’s just going to take consistency in all of those areas, as well as us as coaches really focusing on all the details. Sometimes the difference between a winning season and a losing season comes down to just a couple points or really small details that become a big deal when they’re not addressed and handled the right way.”

Are there percentages or goals that you will set for the offense this year?

“Obviously our goal as an offense is always going to be to win the game. We kind of break it down into specific areas. We want a 60 percent efficiency on first down run or pass. That just entails what we gain on the first down. We want to have a 50 percent third down conversion ratio, an 80 percent touchdown ratio when we’re in the red zone [and] obviously having less turnovers and more explosive plays than the other team. There are a lot of little categories that we use. We use a formula that entails dropped balls, turnovers, sacks and penalties. We add those up and divide it by the number of plays and that’s what we call our ‘Winning Formula.’ If we’re under 12 percent of the total plays, then we have a really good chance of winning the football game. There are some little things like that where we break the game down. What it boils down to is playing disciplined football.”

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.

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