Throughout the process, I knew from the onset that he was a young up-and-comer and he was well-respected amongst the team. Through this exhaustive national search that we went through, he proved that he can lead and he really built a lot of confidence with me with his vision for this program. —Southern Utah athletic director Jason Butikofer, on Demario Warren
Southern Utah has found its replacement for Ed Lamb, a man the Thunderbirds' former head football coach gave his vote of confidence for.
The school announced Sunday that Demario Warren, who has been on the coaching staff for eight years and the past two as the T-Birds' defensive coordinator, has been promoted to become the 12th head coach in program history.
"He’s built this thing brick by brick with Ed Lamb. He has a very innate understanding of who we are, kind of that more with less mentality," Southern Utah athletic director Jason Butikofer said of Warren in a phone interview with the Deseret News Sunday night. "Throughout the process, I knew from the onset that he was a young up-and-comer and he was well-respected amongst the team. Through this exhaustive national search that we went through, he proved that he can lead and he really built a lot of confidence with me with his vision for this program."
Warren takes over for Lamb, who accepted an assistant head coach position on the BYU football coaching staff in late December. Warren served as interim head coach throughout the coaching search process.
Butikofer said he received plenty of feedback on Warren's candidacy for the position.
"You had a vote of confidence from Ed Lamb," the athletic director said. "I had some conversations internally with some of the other assistant coaches. I had seven or eight conversations and a couple email exchanges with some football players, a few of which, maybe three or four of those student-athletes, were representing larger swaths of the team.
"You felt good that internally, he had the support and respect and the confidence of many."
Warren became Southern Utah's secondary coach in spring 2008 and he's also served as linebackers coach; this year, he helped the team win the Big Sky championship while advancing to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. In 2015, the T-Birds led the nation in turnover margin (plus 1.67) and were among the nation's leaders in several other categories, including pass efficiency defense (102.48, ninth nationally), passes intercepted (20, third), third-down conversion percentage defense (.333, 20th) and scoring defense (20.8 points per game, 24th).
Now, he will inherit a program that returns 17 of 22 starters in 2016, as well as gains a transfer player in former BYU quarterback McCoy Hill. In the past few years, the T-Birds' offense has thrived under a pair of former Cougar quarterbacks, Brad Sorensen and Ammon Olsen, who transferred to Cedar City from the Provo school.
Butikofer said he didn't weight more heavily Warren's experience with the program over other factors in making the decision.
"I looked at it more from the fact he knows who we are, he knows where we’ve been. He knows how we’ve gotten here," Butikofer said. "Obviously, the players were cheering for him and were behind him. ... Ultimately, I had to take some of those factors, those variables off the table to get some one-on-one clarity with him as it relates to his ability to step into this chair and be successful."
Warren has also proved instrumental in developing NFL prospects this season in defensive end James Cowser, recently named the FCS defensive player of the year, safety Miles Killebrew and cornerback LeShaun Sims, as well as former T-Bird cornerback Dion Turner. Cowser, Killebrew and Sims all have received invitations to this year's NFL Combine in late February, according to nfldraftdiamonds.com.
Nine of Warren's 11 defensive players this year earned All-Big Sky honors, giving him 18 all-conference players during his eight seasons at Southern Utah.
“My family and I are extremely excited for the opportunity to lead this special program," Warren said in a news release. "We are so grateful to Jason Butikofer, President Scott Wyatt and Eric Leavitt for choosing me to succeed my mentor and friend, Ed Lamb. I would like to thank everyone for their support throughout this process. I look forward to growing and expanding the relationships with the Cedar City, alumni and campus community.”
Warren is a native of Fairfield, California, and played running back at UC Davis, where he was a three-year letterman before injuries halted his career during his senior season. He and his wife, Amanda, have three children: 11-year-old Demario Jr., Jazelle (6) and Daylee (2).
Warren will be formally introduced as the T-Birds' new head coach during a 10 a.m. news conference on Monday.
"He possesses a tough, tireless work ethic, relentless positivity, impeccable character and ultimately a burning desire to win," Butikofer said of his new coach.
Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @brandonljudd