Jeff Grimes left SEC country in the heart of a fertile recruiting mecca that spans from Florida to his home state of Texas. It’s a place where football is a religion and is the cutting edge of the college game, from Alabama to Tallahassee and from Athens to Baton Rouge. He put it all in his rear view mirror to accept his first offensive coordinator job in Provo.
It was a leap in almost every way you want to paint it, to help lift a four-win BYU team back to its rightful place as a traditional collegiate football brand. He declared he wouldn’t have made the move if he didn’t believe in Kalani Sitake, have faith in the talent, and think he could make a difference.
It’s been five months. No games have been played. So, what progress has Grimes made?
I asked this question to Jake Kuresa, one of Grimes’s former O-linemen at BYU, who was the first to openly campaign for Grimes to leave LSU and come to BYU.
Here are Kuresa’s Top 5 Grimes accomplishments, a ranking from the least to the most important.
No. 5. QB Battle: “Grimes found a decent option at quarterback in freshman Zach Wilson. So either Zach is going to step up and be a solid real option that can make plays and be a long-term investment, or Mangum will prove he’s better. Tanner Mangum is coming back, and he’ll have to be pretty danged good. The fact that Wilson is giving an option for coaches is pushing Tanner, Beau Hoge, Joe Critchlow and now Jaren Hall. They knew they must play at a high level because Zach has shown he can compete. Either way, that group is being motivated.”
No. 4: Centralized strength in O-line. “In his hires, he added to the coaching of the offensive line. Grimes will have an offense that is centered on the strength of the O-line,” said Kuresa. “I like the Ryan Pugh hire as the line coach because he hired someone who thinks like him, somebody he trusts, a guy who knows what he expects in the level of play. I like that Dallas Reynolds is also involved. So, with Grimes, Pugh and Reynolds, there is a lot of attention on that aspect of the offense. The line will be the cornerstone. He wouldn’t let it go to somebody he didn’t fully know and trust.
No. 3: Enabled new coaches. “I like the assistants he’s hired because he has enabled them. He has given Aaron Roderick, Fesi Sitake, Pugh, Steve Clark and AJ Steward leeway to discuss, create, give input and use their individual backgrounds to bring what they know to the table. The offense is fluid, flexible and energized because Grimes has allowed it through his trust in them. He didn’t just hire bodies. He didn’t hire names. He hired capable coaches, and he’s let them do their work. Fesi is a talented coach, a great hire. A guy like Fesi isn’t just following directions, he’s implementing, giving ideas, contributing. This was evident in spring where I think the offense won spring over the defense.”
No. 2: Identified interior O-line replacements. After losing Tejan Koroma, Keyan Norman and Tuni Kanuch, Grimes quickly identified five competitive replacements. “He knew how important those experienced players were, and he’s found competitive replacements in spring and eight linemen who can realistically compete for five starting spots. He knows who the contenders are, and he’s heading into fall challenging those he expects to rise to the occasion."
No. 1: Established a standard. “He set a bar. He did that with us, He put a standard in place and he won’t come off of it. There is a standard that has to be met in order to play in his offense and on his field. I saw that in spring ball with guys jumping offsides or fumbling. He made it clear that that is not acceptable. He’s not mean about it, but he expects that standard to be met. He forces guys to climb up to that standard every day and not compromise or bring it down. That was important in spring because guys go into the offseason knowing what is expected and can work on it. They’re now putting pressure on themselves to meet that standard. You saw that in the spring game. He didn’t have one lineman get a pre-snap penalty.
“I remember back in the day of getting kicked out of practice. He won’t hesitate to send a message that a standard is not being met and he holds everyone accountable. The result is a higher level of play and expectation among players,” Kuresa concluded.
This past week, Grimes has been involved in recruiting, making visits, establishing his new logo with new and old contacts. It may be too early to see how that aspect of what he brings has delivered.
But, according to one of his disciples, Kuresa, Grimes has already moved the needle in Provo.
Proof that ultimately counts will come on Sept. 1 in Tucson against Arizona.