Editor's note: Since the original publication of this column, FootballScoop.com has reported that BYU is planning on hiring Eric Mateos as its new offensive line coach.
PROVO — BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes says hiring a new offensive line coach is right around the corner.
With national signing day over, now comes this hire. The Cougars are just over two weeks away from starting spring football practice.
Grimes lost offensive line coach Ryan Pugh when the former Auburn All-American elected to take a promotion as offensive coordinator at Troy in his home state of Alabama.
Pugh, a likable, energetic disciple of Grimes, left a sizeable hole in BYU's offensive staff.
“We’re working on it,” Grimes said. “And I think we’ll have one in place soon. There have been a lot of guys I’ve looked at, talked to many on the phone and interviewed a few I like. We’re getting close.”
It's possible the new hire needed to finish up recruiting duties at his current post.
Footballscoop.com reported Wednesday that BYU is expected to hire Eric Mateos to replace Pugh. Mateos worked with Grimes at LSU and has been coaching the offensive line at Texas State the past two seasons.
If the Pugh hire shows anything, it is that Grimes will recommend a coach to Kalani Sitake who will be an extension of himself. As a coach at LSU, Auburn, BYU, Colorado, Virginia Tech and Boise State, Grimes has a reputation as a disciplinarian, a guy who demands a high level of effort and execution. And players like and respect him. Pugh fit the profile to a T. It would make sense Grimes would turn to a guy like Mateos, who on the surface appears to have confidence from Grimes.
Neither Grimes nor Sitake can afford a misfire on this hire. The progress of the Cougars' young O-line is critical to the trajectory of the team.
Grimes does not want to take over the position or micromanage his O-line coach.
“I have coached it, but you know, a lot of people, and this is the wrong approach, say as an offensive line coach you really don’t need a guy who's all that good in that position,” Grimes said. “That’s not true.”
One could say that Grimes isn’t looking for a cheap, quick, simple hire, but is out to find and pay a trusted, no-gamble coach to take the job.
“It's not my job. My job is to be the offensive coordinator, which means to oversee the entire offense,” Grimes said. “And if I have to give an inordinate amount of time to the offensive line, then it's going to take away from my job and overseeing the rest of the staff and every other player on offense.
“And so I see my position as a holistic one; that I see the big picture. I enjoy seeing the big picture. And certainly, I do get a little bit more involved with the offensive line than any other position in terms of practice time,” he continued. “But it should be that way, because five of the 11 players on the field are offensive linemen, and so they need more coaching.”
So, what is Grimes looking for in Pugh’s replacement?
“I'm looking for a guy who can do the same thing that Ryan did, which is to come in and coach the O-line, be a line coach who loves those guys and develops them and gets them better.
“I think this year we should take a major step forward with our offensive line. Most linemen improve the most between their first year starting and their second year starting. And we've got basically everybody back, so all of them are in that position.”
Grimes believes the returning experience on the offensive line should be an attractive carrot for Pugh’s replacement.
“Every one of them, whether you're talking about Keanu (Saleapaga), who started several games, or whether you're talking about Kieffer (Longson), who started three games, or James (Empey) or Brady (Christensen) or Tristen (Hoge), who started every game, that was the first year starting for all of them. They'll be a year older, a year bigger, stronger and more experienced. It should be time for them to take a big step.”
A popular local candidate, graduate assistant Dallas Reynolds, won't replace Pugh. Reynolds moved away from coaching after this past season.
Reynolds, the son of former BYU player and a longtime member of LaVell Edwards’ staff, Lance Reynolds, wrote on Facebook this week:28 comments on this story
“I feel now’s a good time to let you all know that I’ve stepped away from BYU, and from coaching. I want to thank Coach Sitake for all he’s done for me. I love and respect that man! I’m grateful for the other coaches that I’ve formed great relationships with and from (whom) I have learned much. I wish BYU football nothing but success. I felt this decision is what was best for my family. I’m excited for what the future has in store for me and the chance to explore new opportunities outside of football.”
Many folks in Provo were pulling for the homegrown Reynolds, but he never interviewed, I’m told.
It’s a big hire for Sitake and Grimes.