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Mike Terry, Deseret News
BYU assistant coach Joe DuPaix

PROVO — When Joe DuPaix was playing quarterback at Snow Junior College, the Badgers' defensive coordinator was some guy named Bronco Mendenhall.

Some 20 years later, DuPaix and Mendenhall find themselves on the same staff at BYU. Last winter, Mendenhall, the Cougars' head coach, hired DuPaix as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

"I got to know who he was then," DuPaix said of Mendenhall. "All the coaches on this staff I've known and built a relationship with them."

DuPaix will coach his first game in his new job Saturday when the Cougars visit Ole Miss. It also marks BYU's first game as an independent.

"I love being here. Every day I feel more and more comfortable," DuPaix said. "It's been a great experience thus far and I'm looking forward to our future. We have great players and great coaches to work with. So far, it's been phenomenal. I'm excited to be a part of this thing."

Though he didn't play at BYU, DuPaix has strong roots with the program.

His father, Roger, the longtime coach at Skyline High, played for the Cougars in the early 1960s. Joe played QB for his dad, as did BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. Joe DuPaix and Doman have been friends for years.

Prior to his hiring at BYU, DuPaix coached at Navy, which is also an independent, for three seasons.

"There's definitely a lot of crossover between Navy and here. We have great young men that are eager to get better. They're hungry to get better," DuPaix. "To be a part of that is a huge, huge deal. The same was true at the Naval Academy. On top of that, we have really smart kids that want to be great football players and want to be great in the classroom. To be around high-character kids that are intelligent and have a drive to be a great football player makes my job very good. I'm very fortunate and grateful to be coaching these guys."

Mendenhall said DuPaix has "energy, experience, a passion to be here." He described DuPaix as "a great recruiter, a tireless worker, really good teacher. He's just a really good fit."

After he finished playing at Snow, he transferred to Southern Utah, where he set an NCAA Division I-AA rushing record for yards by a quarterback in 1996. His coaching career began at the University of Missouri-Rolla, followed by stints at Riverton High, Cal Poly, and Navy.

Being able to return to his home state was one of the things that attracted DuPaix to BYU.

"It's super-gratifying to be here," he said. "When I had the opportunity to come back here with my wife and kids, being back in Utah, is huge. My wife and kids are loving it. And I get to work at BYU. It's a win-win-win. Now we just need to take care of it on the field and win games."

GAME WEEK: BYU held a practice Saturday that was closed to the media. No coaches or players were made available to the media, either.

On Monday morning, Mendenhall will hold his first weekly news conference at Legends Grille. Fall semester classes also start Monday.

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MEANWHILE, IN OXFORD: Ole Miss held a two-hour dress rehearsal Saturday in preparation for next week's season-opener against BYU.

The Rebels plan to watch film Sunday and take off Monday for classes before returning to practice on Tuesday.

"I think we have had a really good camp," said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt. "We need to get some of these guys that are injured back to full speed, but we are looking forward to game week. We have studied BYU all summer and we are ready. Now, it's time to play ball."

email: jeffc@desnews.com