DeAndre Smith was officially announced as Utah State’s running backs coach on March 14—smack dab in the middle of spring ball. Despite the late arrival, Smith’s new position group has adjusted on the fly to his coaching style and has not skipped a beat.
Like the running backs, Smith has also had to learn on the fly, but he loves every minute of it, from the football side of things to outside of football.
Smith has 19 years of collegiate coaching experience, including two seasons as an offensive coordinator and 17 years as a running backs coach. Prior to his appointment with the Aggies, the former quarterback at Southwest Missouri State spent the 2017 season at North Carolina and served as Purdue’s running backs coach in 2016. He played professionally in France and for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
Following one of the team’s practices earlier this week, we caught up with Smith for a Q&A.
Q: How have your first few weeks on the job gone?
Smith: “It has been non-stop and fast-paced. I am playing catchup for sure, trying to learn the offense and trying to teach those guys things I look for in the position, like fundamentals and other things of that nature. Those guys are hearing my voice for the first time and trying to incorporate it. We have many great coaches on the staff that have been extremely helpful and who have been working with me. It has been a great transition, but I’m definitely playing catch up for sure.”
Q: Was it a deterrence being hired in the middle of spring ball?
Smith: “No. The thing about football is the concepts are all the same, they just have different names. So really, I just had to know the names for inside zone and the names for our gap scheme, and then really what I found is there are many similarities in my career in what we are doing on offense, which makes it easy. Just understanding the names is the biggest thing. As far as concepts, we’re running the same concepts I’ve ran for the last 15 or 16 years.”
Q: How did the opportunity at Utah State surface?
Smith: “Coach (Matt) Wells and I go way back, about 10 years or so. We worked together in New Mexico. He and I visited several times about the opening and he made it happen.”
Q: What are your expectations for the running backs this year?
Smith: “I expect us, as a group, to be dominant. We are running the football; there is no question about that. I expect them to hold onto the football, I expect them to be good in protections, protecting the quarterback, and when they actually carry the ball, to make explosive plays. These guys have the ability to be explosive, so the expectation is when we get a chance to make a play, we run and make a play, and when there is a chance to be explosive, we will be explosive. But I like them. They’re tough, they’re physical and I just expect them to continue to be that way.”
Q: How did your offensive development go from being a quarterback to an offensive coordinator and a running backs coach?
Smith: “My background as a former player has always been option football. Being a quarterback, I ran the football a lot, so I would like to think one of my attributes as a runner was my vision and toughness to make guys miss. I just incorporate that into the running game as a running back position. Once you start running a certain way and make the guy miss, I can communicate that with the guys. The quarterback background of understanding what they’re doing up front, what they’re doing in the secondary, understanding how we’re trying to attack certain concepts in the passing game and then in the running game, I try to make them complete in that way. I probably give them a little bit more than what they would want sometimes, but it makes them efficient and it makes them play faster. Over the years, being around many great offensive lines, that has helped me, as well. It started off simply as a guy who got a chance to coach running backs, and I just try to get better as I progress in my career.”
Q: What attributes do you want to instill in your players?
Smith: “Number one, that we’re tough. As a coach, you always say your players reflect who you are. Therefore, we’re going to be tough and we’re going to be physical, we’re going to enjoy the game, we’re going to have fun and we’re going to play hard. Ultimately, we want to win. I hope those things show up as we go through next season.”
Q: What did you like about Utah State’s offensive philosophy that fits you?
Smith: “I like the fact that we spread teams out. The misconception is a lot of spread teams throw the ball, but they really run the ball. I like the fact that we play fast, we get guys on their heels and we should have a lot of open lanes, so that is running-back friendly for sure. We have some guys on the perimeter that can catch it, and we have quarterbacks that can throw it. It’s an offense that lives well for running backs because we can throw it and we go fast, we get people tired, then it gives us easier running lanes to take advantage of.”
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of football?
Smith: “I love to travel. Believe it or not, I love to shop. But more than anything, I love to see different parts of the country. I have been fortunate to live in another country, in several countries, and travel Europe and things like that, so that fits me. I have lived in this part of the country and it is an awesome time of year right now. The state of Utah is beautiful and Logan is beautiful, so it really fits my personality of taking advantage of what football has given me and being able to see the world. I love that part of it for sure.”
Q: What do you still need to check off on your bucket list?
Smith: “I have been to a lot of Olympic sites, but I have never been to one of the major sporting events, like the Super Bowl. I would love to do that. I have been to Europe, but I want to go back where I can appreciate it more. I want to go back to Paris and Barcelona, all those places where I can understand it a little bit better. When I was younger, I did not. I was just carefree and it was something to do. I cannot think of anything else. I have been a blessed individual. Going to some major sporting events, I would love to be able to do that.”
Q: What are some of the neatest places you have visited?
Smith: “I loved the southern part of France. Visiting Monte Carlo, that was cool. Monte Carlo was awesome. Barcelona, Spain, is nice. That was when the Olympics were there in 1992, and I got a chance to see the original Dream Team. A really good friend of mine, Pam McGee, the mother of JaVale McGee, was playing for the French team and I was playing within that city, so we hung out and she took me around. I got the chance to meet those people. Here in the United States, places like California, which is a beautiful place. Paris was awesome. Europe would be in my top-three places, but the United States has some cool places, too.”
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.