A little more than three weeks ago, Weber State University announced its selection of Jay Hill to become the 11th head football coach in the history of the Wildcats' program, which has managed just four wins combined over the past two seasons. Hill, 38, is a longtime member of the University of Utah coaching staff, having served since 2001 in various capacities as an administrative assistant, special teams coordinator and helping coach the team's cornerbacks, tight ends and running backs. He recently spoke with Deseret News sports writer Randy Hollis.
What do you see as the biggest challenge or obstacle that you need to overcome here at Weber State?
"Well, it's going to be the same challenge every year. The biggest thing for a football program to be successful is you've got to have good players. So that's going to be the obstacle every single year we're in it. The dilemma we have right now is we're starting having missed those first eight months of recruiting. And now we've got to put together a (recruiting) class in the next month and a half that is going to be comparable to or better than all of our opponents."
You say the biggest challenge is to get good players in here. Is there a different caliber of player you're looking to get in here that they haven't had in the past?
"Hopefully, you up that talent higher than they've ever had it. That's what you should want to do. And then once you have the kids in place, you've got to get ’em to play well and play disciplined and structured. And I think that's something that we can do. Having watched the film on these guys last year, there's a couple of things I believe we can do. We can get the kids to believe in their ability that they do have; we can get the kids to believe in the program, in the other coaches, in the schemes. I think that a huge part of it is the kids have gotta believe in what we're doing. And then the other thing is we've got to make ’em a little more tough and we've got to make ’em more disciplined, and that's my job. The personality of a team is usually a reflection of the head coach. You also need assistant coaches that can get on players and do it the right way where the kids know they love ’em. But at the same time, if the kids are screwing up or they're making mistakes, they're gonna know it and we're not gonna baby ’em. Our job's not to baby ’em, our job is to get the most out of them athletically, socially and academically that we can. That's our job."
This is your first head coaching job. How excited/nervous/worried or whatever the right word might be about taking on this responsibility?
"Excited, yeah. Nervous, not really. Excited. I've watched enough coaches take over programs that I know the pitfalls, I know the things that you've got to overcome. So I'm excited about this opportunity. Now, are there mistakes or things that we're gonna make along the way? Yeah. We've just got to make sure that those don't affect our wins and losses."
You have coached with guys like Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, Kyle Whittingham and Gary Andersen. What have you learned from successful coaches like them and what do you view as your own coaching style?
"I've learned so much from all the coaches I've been around. I would say my style would be a good cross between Coach McBride, Coach Meyer and Coach Whittingham. If you just pick one that I feel like I'm most closely related to, it would probably be Gary Andersen as far as my overall philosophy of what I want to do and be. And that's not taking anything away from those other coaches, because they're all wonderful. Ideally, if you had Coach Whittingham's Xs and Os, you'd be the best X and O guy in the country, because he knows football as well as anybody. Urban Meyer's the ultimate motivator. Coach McBride, his players played for him because they loved him, they just flat love him. If you can find that cross between all those guys that I've been around, we should have a dang good mix. But when I stand up in front of the players, it's not about 'I coached for Urban Meyer.' It's got to be what I can get across to the players, so it's gonna be about me and our program and whether or not we can get the kids to buy into what we're doing."
Now that you've been on the job for a few days, how do you feel about the state of the Weber State program? And although it's impossible to turn things around overnight, do you feel like the potential is there to build some good success here?
"The facilities here are great, it's better than I thought. But the programs are based upon people, and the people within this program are outstanding. You can tell that they're fighting like crazy to have a culture of winning here, which is good. Now, having said that, we've got a hole that we're digging out of. We didn't have a great record last year, we've got some issues that we're overcoming with just academics and how some of the players performed this year and things like that, which you always have, those holes you're digging out of. But we're digging out of a good one right now. I left an unbelievable job with a head coach that took care of me and had for a long time, and there was a lot of mutual respect there. I would not have taken this job if I didn't feel like we could be great. If I thought we were just gonna be good, I wouldn't have taken the job. But I know we can be great here."
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