Note: West Jordan finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2013 and was sixth in Region 3 with an 0-5 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
WEST JORDAN — Entering his second season, West Jordan football coach Danny DuPaix has gotten his feet wet.
He now has a year's worth of experience with the kids who are playing for him, has first-hand knowledge regarding what the competition looks like, and better understands what it means to be part of the Jaguar football family.
He also took an opportunity during the offseason to expand and deepen his coaching staff. DuPaix has recruited the expertise of the legendary Skyline High football coach, and his dad, Roger DuPaix. The addition, the head coach said, has already made a world of difference.
"It changes just about every facet, because you have a coach who has been there, who has seen every situation," the younger DuPaix said of his dad and new assistant. "He’s dealt with every type of kid that we have, the different parent situations, the different socioeconomic statuses, everything. He’s dealt with all of that, so whenever there’s a problem or something where we are unsure of what to do, we go to him."
A year ago, the elder DuPaix's football mind was out of reach while he was in the Philippines serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This time around, he is just a phone call, and during practice just a few steps, away when the head coach needs some input.
"It’s good because I can just call him on the phone, say, ‘What do we do about Johnny or Jimmy? He’s not getting his block, what are we going to do?’" Danny DuPaix said. "And he says, ‘Well, do this, A, B and C. If A doesn’t work, go to B or C.’ It’s really good to have him. It’s a level of comfort for me because I have coached with him before. And he’s pretty hard on me and the other coaches, too. He expects a lot of us because that’s how he’s always been. That’s good for the staff, it really is. We’ve just got to work harder."
Much of the work this season for both DuPaixs and the rest of the coaching staff will be invested in taking steps toward building greater mental toughness among the Jaguars.
"A lot of these young guys, even the ones that played, still lack a little bit of confidence and have a little doubt in their assignments, their responsibilities," Danny DuPaix said. "We’ve worked really hard on technique and strength, and those things are there, but how to then apply them in a game situation, or in a practice situation even, we’re still learning."
The coach will be leaning on a couple of returning players for leadership in both physical and mental aspects of the game.
Vai Jaeger, a senior running back, is one of those players. A year ago, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound athlete averaged 4.69 yards per carry and scored three rushing touchdowns as well as two handfuls of receiving yards and 12 tackles on defense.
Another leader is quarterback Brandon Gregg, a 6-foot-2 senior who had opportunities to start in two games against Alta and Brighton last season.
"He played in two very big games," DuPaix said. "They were region games and they were tough teams. It was basically throw him in and say, ‘We have to win this impossible game, and you have to lead us.’ He’s been through the toughest of the tough situations."
West Jordan Jaguars at a glance
Coach: Danny DuPaix is entering his second season at West Jordan, where he has accumulated a career record of 1-9. He is a graduate of Skyline High and the University of Utah.
(5 returning starters, Wishbone/flexbone offense)
The Jaguars return senior running back Vai Jaeger, five offensive linemen who have spent some time as starters, and new quarterback Brandon Gregg, who started in two games last season.
"All five of our offensive linemen started at one point during the season. Our quarterback started two games while we had an injury, and we return one of our running backs," DuPaix said. "That’s good, that’s about half of our guys, so we feel comfortable with that."
The coach also said the offensive crew will be utilized in a different way this season as West Jordan leans more on the run game.
"We need to be better at our run game," the coach said. "We threw it a lot last year and we need to run better, be a little more balanced."
(4 returning starters)
Two of the returning defensive starters are defensive linemen, and the coach said both are very talented players. Add to that group John Penisini, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound linemen who did not play with West Jordan last season and is ready to get back on the field.
"He’s one of our best players," DuPaix said. "He’s expected to do some really big things for us. He’s a bigger lineman and we expect him to come in and play hard for us."
The Jaguars also return a defensive back and a linebacker, both of whom provide the team with "good experience and something to build on," DuPaix said.
Coaches' preseason Region 3 straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: In order to continue to take steps forward and find success, West Jordan needs to control the line of scrimmage. Last season, the Jaguars were pushed around and opponents easily created holes in the line. The team has been working throughout the offseason on improving its size, strength, toughness, footwork and technique, and it will need to utilize those things on both sides of the ball. If West Jordan can control the line of scrimmage, it can win some games.
West Jordan coaching history
2013-current — Daniel Dupaix (1-9)
1999-2012 — Mike Morgan (66-68)
1997-1998 — Brent Hawkins (6-14)
1989-1996 — Rick Bojak (48-33)
1985-1988 — Tom Molen (3-34)
1981-1984 — Larry Sanich (6-28)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2010 — Martavius Redmond WR
2005 — Mike Meifu, RB
2004 — Rio Stotler, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.