I feel great about being in a position where we’ve completed our staff. It took a bit longer than I might have initially thought it would but I felt it was important to get it right. —BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes
Grimey’s men are present and accounted for.
First-time offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes has finally put all his BYU coaching pieces together and finished a recruiting class while on the run. Now it is time for the former LSU line coach to implement and finish the design of the future Cougar offense.
“I feel great about being in a position where we’ve completed our staff,” said Grimes. “It took a bit longer than I might have initially thought it would but I felt it was important to get it right. There were some people early on that we knew we would move on, but the running back position took longer. We talked to several people and interviewed a few people. AJ Steward is just right for our players.”
One thing gets weary for Grimes, however. It is a debate he hears consistently over whether these hires were his or Kalani Sitake’s guys.
“Well, we hired the staff. Kalani is the coach and ultimately he hired all of us, including me, and it included everyone in the staff,” said Grimes. “He told me early on he wanted me to feel completely comfortable with everyone on the staff. Obviously, he had prior relationships to some of those on this new staff, and some I had prior relationships.
“It was really a neat process for the two of us to come together and get a great group of guys. I’m excited about not only the quality of the guys but the chemistry, which is just what you need on a team. You can have quality players but sometimes the chemistry isn’t there. That’s the same with putting together a staff. It has a chance to trickle down to the players now.”
Six of BYU’s 10 assistants will be on offense. Here is Grime’s take on those coaches:
AJ Steward, running backs: “Not a guy I knew prior but someone who was recommended very highly by a number of people. It is interesting how you can find a lot about people online. You can see them coaching, speaking to the public. He came across as an intelligent, well-spoken guy who communicates very well. I had a long conversation with him on the phone and brought him in for an interview. He did a tremendous job. I think he’s a very good teacher and role model for our backs.”
Ryan Pugh, offensive line: “Obviously, I expect him to be the best line coach in the country, so, no pressure, right? Ryan, from the time I knew him as a player, and the time he operated underneath me as a coach on the offensive staff, has always been a person who is driven towards excellence. It’s just unbelievably important for him to do well with his job. I saw it when he was playing in the national championship and when working as my graduate assistant. He has a thirst for excellence and is competitive and sharp.”
Aaron Roderick, pass game coordinator: “He has a lot of experience that adds to our group. He has a lot of knowledge of the game. His temperament is what is needed for our quarterbacks. He has a real confidence about him without being cocky or arrogant at all. His knowledge base is like mine. He hasn’t been to as many places as I’ve been, but he’s familiar with a lot of offenses at that other place. He and I share a common ground in that we’ve experienced a lot of things. He’s a student of the game and has studied a lot of offenses and worked with many people over the years. I really enjoy he and me working together and putting together ideas.”
Fesi Sitake, receivers: “He’s a guy who will be just right at his position. As a former coordinator, he has a lot of knowledge of the game, and he was successful at it. He knows how routes should be run and how to get the most out of the passing game. He has a great personality and exuberance about him, and he can motivate guys. He will be a great addition to our staff and our team.”
Steve Clark, tight ends: “He is awesome. He was my grad assistant when I was here before. He has a lot of passion. He is very much still in love with the game of football. I keep talking to our players that they need to love this game and have a passion for it, and that starts with our coaches. Steve has been successful in his own right as a coordinator and has a very good knowledge of the pass and run game and has a great relationship with not only our tight ends but all our offensive players. I’m grateful he has a chance to stay on this staff and work with these players.”
Hiring this staff, which includes three former offensive coordinators and accumulated 90 years college coaching experience, wouldn’t have been possible without administration backing and funding. Athletic director Tom Holmoe told reporters this is the most BYU has invested in its football program to date.
“Yeah, I think so,” Grimes said of financials. “I don’t really know what was done prior to this, but I know they did what was necessary to put the right pieces in place for us. That is important. Just like recruiting was important for us to get the players, it was very important for us to hire the right staff to move this program forward.”
Can these guys recruit? Five of the 10 professional assistant coaches on Sitake’s current staff are not of the LDS faith, the sponsoring institution of BYU. That could be a good thing, a more cosmopolitan look, right?
Well, it is a new idea.
Some of BYU’s historic legendary coaches were from a non-LDS mold: Dave Kragthorpe, Dewey Warren, Mike Holmgren, Roger French, Ted Tollner, Doug Scovil, Brian Mitchell, DeWayne Walker and Grimes, to name a few.
Although BYU’s recruiting pool is smaller than most, Grimes believes it is imperative to seek, find and fit the right players at BYU, and that takes recruiting abilities and contacts.
“There are a number of guys who have experience in Utah, in particular with BYU, others who don’t have that same knowledge base but are experienced in their own realm; they are intelligent, hard workers and have what it takes to get it right,” said Grimes.
“Recruiting is first the ability to build relationships. If you can build relationships you can do it anywhere. Secondly, it is taking those relationships and working really hard to find the right prospects, working on finding the right way to get them here. This staff has the right combination of people skills to make that happen.”
Spring practice is less than a month away in Provo.
It will be a speed session in cramming knowledge into action; new coaches learning as they teach players an offensive system; new personalities that need to gel on the run before the Cougars open up on the road at Arizona.
No part of this new adventure will be easy.