I sincerely look forward to not only making a difference on the field but also making a life-long impact on the young men in the program. —AJ Steward, new BYU running backs coach
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BYU’s football staff is complete, as the Cougars announced Tuesday that AJ Steward will be the team’s running backs coach under first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
Steward has six years of coaching experience, including most recently four years as the running backs coach at Rice University. Prior to that, he served as a graduate assistant at Rice.
“AJ is known as an excellent recruiter and for his ability to develop players,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. “He has done great things as a running backs coach and brings unique experience from an outstanding academic school, which helps him understand one of the important focuses we have here at BYU. I’m excited to welcome AJ to our coaching staff.”
Steward, 28, played college football at Kansas from 2008-11, switching from quarterback to wide receiver before ultimately landing as a tight end. He joined the Rice staff in 2012 following his college career and helped the Owls rush for 187.0 yards per game last season, which was 38th nationally.
“My wife and I are tremendously excited and are blessed to join the BYU football family,” Steward said in a statement. “I am grateful for coach Sitake, Tom Holmoe, President Worthen and coach Grimes for entrusting me with this amazing opportunity to come to Provo and be part of the rich football tradition at BYU. I sincerely look forward to not only making a difference on the field but also making a life-long impact on the young men in the program."
The hiring of Steward finalized the Cougars' coaching staff.
Most of the faces on the offensive staff, including Grimes and Steward, are new. Among the new faces, BYU announced that Aaron Roderick will be passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Fesi Sitake is the team's wide receivers coach and Ryan Pugh will coach the offensive line. Steve Clark was retained as the tight ends coach.
Grimes replaced Ty Detmer as the team's offensive coordinator after the Heisman Trophy winner served as the Cougars' OC in 2016 and 2017. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe confirmed during his semiannual meeting with the media in late January that Detmer was no longer with the football program but remains under contract with the school for another year.
“I had a couple of opportunities to talk with him in person to see what he’s interested in pursuing,” Holmoe said.
There were fewer changes on the defensive staff this offseason. Former BYU defensive back Preston Hadley joined the Cougars' staff as the team's secondary coach, while longtime assistant coach Steve Kaufusi, who coached defensive line for 15 seasons and linebackers last year, stepped down to pursue other interests.
With Hadley's addition, assistant head coach Ed Lamb moves from safeties to coach linebackers while defensive coordinator Ilaisi Tuiaki and Jernaro Gilford will maintain their personnel group assignments of coaching the defensive line and cornerbacks, respectively.