This will be our offense, not my offense. It is BYU’s offense. And all of us together will put this offense together. —Jeff Grimes
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories on new BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and key characteristics he looks for in a quarterback.
Jeff Grimes is just hours away from migrating from LSU’s Citrus Bowl battle in Orlando with Notre Dame and his life in the highly competitive and dramatic SEC, to a winter of building a foundation for a new offense at independent BYU.
It will be like leaving a busy freeway for a toll beltway of high expectations.
Grimes is a no-nonsense football junkie. His knowledge and passion for the game is well-known across the country. His demanding style is tough but his players say he inspires and motivates them to get the most out of their abilities.
In BYU history, the voyage Grimes will embark upon needs the ever-valuable traction of a high-functioning offensive line — his specialty. But the Cougars have never been anything without a playmaking, highly productive quarterback. Finding that piece on his map is not just a crucial priority, it is DEFCON 1.
In this multi-part Deseret News series, Grimes will detail key characteristics of what he looks for in a quarterback.
“I didn’t coach the position or play the position obviously, but I’ll trust ARod (Aaron Roderick) to be a great quarterback coach,” said Grimes.
“I have great confidence in him as a coach and I believe he’ll do a phenomenal job coaching and developing our quarterback position. He knows the quarterback position much better than I do. However, I have been around enough good ones to know what I’m looking for and know how to plan systems around quarterbacks to maximize their skill set.”
One of the most storied quarterbacks Grimes helped create a system for with protection and schemes was Cam Newton at Auburn in a 2011 BCS national championship season. Grimes’ success at Boise State, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Auburn and LSU speaks for itself.
“One thing we will do is build this offense around our talent, and that goes for every position. If we are a great running power, then we’ll run more power. If we’re better at running a wide zone play, then we’ll run more wide zone, if our offensive linemen are suited to that kind of play. But obviously, it starts with what your quarterback can do,” Grimes said.
BYU returns a truckload of QBs for 2018. This group will receive gobs of attention and support from myriad sources on staff. One might say, this is the most experienced staff BYU has assembled on offense ever. It includes three former offensive coordinators.
A key element in assembling this staff is the transfer of knowledge — limiting the amount of time Grimes must spend as coordinator in teaching his own staff while tutoring players. This is why he turned to longtime protégé Ryan Pugh, most recently the O-line coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who coached with Grimes at VT, Auburn and LSU.
“I think the biggest way it helps me to have Ryan is it helps me really coordinate the offense rather than be forced to spend an inordinate amount of time coaching the offensive line or directing the offensive line coach.”
Grimes’ wife has given him grief for years saying if he ever became an offensive coordinator, she’d hate to be his offensive line coach. “Because you are never happy with how the offensive line plays and you’re never going to be happy with him.”
That may be true to some extent, says Grimes.
“Having a guy in that position who knows the way I want them to be coached from both a standpoint of culture and mindset and from the standpoint of techniques — specific techniques — is an important part of why I chose Ryan as my O-line coach," he said.
“He is a very young guy but has a lot more life experience than a lot of people realize. He was the center on our Auburn national championship offensive line. He really directed the offense. Obviously, Cam Newton and others got a lot of credit for things that happened, but it was Ryan who was responsible for what happened up front because he directed the offense, all our protections, all of what happened in the run game and got everyone moving in the right direction.”
An Auburn All-American, Grimes said Pugh is someone he not only coached, but was an assistant to him at three different schools (VT, Auburn, LSU). “There is nobody who knows me better as a coach than Ryan. There is nobody I have more confidence in than Ryan. There were a number of people who reached out to me in regards to that job, but Ryan was the guy Kalani Sitake and I felt most comfortable in hiring.”
BYU’s offensive linemen will respond to Pugh. “They’ll like his energy, his passion for the game and his knowledge as well. He’ll help them become great linemen."
Sitake has told Grimes to take a few days off after the Citrus Bowl on Monday, catch up with his family, then make his way to Provo.
In the meantime, Grimes has been on plenty of long chats with Pugh, Roderick, Fesi Sitake and Steve Clark, who will comprise his staff. “They are all chomping at the bit to get going. Once it starts, we’ll be grinding for a while.”
Grimes said he doesn’t know of any other situation in college football where some of the prime candidates for the BYU offensive coordinator job actually ended up being hired.
“That just doesn’t happen, where three potential coordinators who were almost hired for the job ended up being hired together. I think it is pretty cool how Kalani put it together. Obviously he and I talked a lot about who would be hired to coach on offense. He gave me a lot of leeway and freedom on that, but we worked on that together.”
Said Grimes, “It just doesn’t happen. If you were being considered as the new offensive coordinator at LSU or Oklahoma and they were considering a group of six or seven guys and three of them ended up being on that staff — it just does not happen, ever. Anywhere. Where else does that happen where three candidates end up on staff together? It doesn’t. It speaks to the unique nature of BYU and those who are attracted to it. It gave us an opportunity to assemble a pretty unique staff. Even though guys like Ryan and Fesi are very young, I think they are some of the best coaches anywhere and I think time will prove that to be true.
“I obviously feel very strong about all of them or they wouldn’t be with us.”
Grimes’ staff, counting Clark, has three former offensive coordinators at the college level onboard with a combined 84 years of coaching in college.
“This will be our offense, not my offense. It is BYU’s offense. And all of us together will put this offense together. It will be a collaborative effort, and I think it will be pretty special, not because of me but because of us, the quality of the staff and the ability to work together.”
Taking over for a historically underperforming offense in 2017, the task looms large with a tough schedule once more. While BYU lost the interior of the O-line for the upcoming season, the skill position players are far more experienced than a year ago.
That is a key building block for Grimes.
Next: Jeff Grimes explains the No. 1 characteristic he values in a quarterback.