First-year coach Jay Hill and Co. plan on turning Weber State's program into something special

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2014 1:55 p.m. MDT

New Weber State head coach Jay Hill instructs during practice in Ogden, Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OGDEN — What's going on with Weber State's football program these days might remind folks of one of those good ol' Western movies from long ago.

You know, the one where a tough new sheriff comes into a town that's struggling through hard times, and he's got the difficult job of trying to clean things up.

Well, in the Wildcats' case, that new "sheriff" is Jay Hill, their first-year head football coach who was brought in last December with the challenge of turning around a struggling program that has sputtered to a 4-19 record over the past two seasons combined. Weber State won just two games in each of the 2012 and 2013 seasons and went a combined 3-13 in the Big Sky Conference during that span.

What's more, and worse, during one dreadful six-game stretch last season, the Wildcats were outscored by an embarrassing cumulative margin of 302-41.

Yes, that new "sheriff" will definitely have his hands full trying to clean up this mess. But he has full confidence that it can be done.

"Everything we're asking them to do, they're fighting like crazy to do it," Hill said of the newest edition of the Wildcats, who are busy with their final week of 2014 spring drills, which will culminate with the annual purple and white game Saturday at 1 p.m. in Stewart Stadium. "You're breaking bad habits, you're trying to instill better discipline and work and toughness. And that's what we're fighting through right now is trying to instill our system in these guys.

"Some of these guys are playing for their fourth head coach in four years. You've got to put yourself in the players' shoes as well. And we do, as coaches, we try to imagine where they're coming from. I like the progression they've made; they're buying in. And the future's bright, I do know that. The future's bright."

Coach Hill won't be trying to do this reclamation project all by himself. He has enlisted the help of a great group of "deputies" — assistant coaches who are eager for the challenge of trying to rebuild the Wildcats' football fortunes.

Guys like offensive coordinator Steve Clark and defensive coordinator Justin Ena, who each spent the last six seasons on the coaching staff at Weber State's Big Sky rival, Southern Utah University.

Guys like longtime offensive line coach Brent Myers, who's also WSU's associate head coach and has more than 30 years of coaching experience under his belt.

Guys like Jason Kaufusi and Quinton Ganther, a pair of former University of Utah stars who will now be responsible for coaching up the Wildcats' defensive ends and running backs, respectively.

Guys like Colton Swan, who's starting his 10th season on the Weber State staff, where he'll coach the tight ends and has now worked for five different head coaches during his time at WSU.

And guys like former Weber State and University of Utah player Kite Afeaki, who coaches the defensive tackles; wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake, who spent the previous three seasons coaching at Southern Utah; and Lance Hunsaker, who will direct the secondary and special teams.

Clark has been given the daunting task of overhauling an offense that scored less than 16 points a game last season, and put up more than 20 points only four times in 12 games. But he says the team's talent level is much better than that if the Wildcats can eliminate the turnovers that plagued the program last year.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Clark said. "A team goes 2-10, you'd expect a heck of a lot worse than what we have. We've got good players, a good, solid offensive line, some good running backs. We need some depth at some places, we need some depth at wide receiver.

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