LOGAN —TJ Woods and head coach Gary Andersen have been on the same sideline for nine seasons with three different schools, including four years at Utah State from 2009-12. Woods was officially announced as Utah State's offensive line coach on Dec. 18.
Woods has 16 years of collegiate coaching experience, including spending last season as Western Kentucky's offensive line coach with current Utah State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. Prior to his appointment with the Hilltopers, the former offensive lineman at Azusa Pacific spent three seasons at Oregon State, where he coached four offensive linemen to Pac-12 All-Conference honors and saw two of his linemen, Sean Harlow and Isaac Seumalo, get drafted into the NFL. Woods also spent two years as Wisconsin's offensive line coach, where his group helped block for running back Melvin Gordon during his monster senior season in 2014 when he won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Woods has been a part of multiple football postseasons as he helped the Badgers earn trips to the 2014 Outback Bowl and the 2013 Capital One Bowl, helped Utah State earn consecutive trips to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and a trip to the New Mexico Bowl with the Lobos.
Following one of the team's practices earlier this week, we caught up with Woods for a Q&A.
Q: This is your second stint as an assistant at Utah State. Talk about how the first few months on the job have gone for you?
Woods****: It's been unique and incredible in a lot of ways for both my wife Kelly and I. We really cut our teeth in our professional lives growing up as a young couple here in Logan in our first go-around. It's surreal being back, if I'm honest. Logan has always held a very special place in our hearts because of the community, the people that we've grown to love and have relationships with here in town, and the success we've had on the football field. It was something that was very enjoyable and it was a lot of fun. It's been great to be back and we're excited to continue to work and continue to take this program to new heights.
Q: What has changed at Utah State in the six years you were gone?
Woods****: A lot has changed in my opinion. The town has changed; it's a lot bigger. It seems like there's a little bit more traffic on Main Street then there was six years ago, which is awesome. That certainly helps from a recruiting standpoint. The overall facilities and feel of the athletic department. Coach Andersen's big goal when we first got here was to make Utah State a big-time football program. That was a process, a daily grind and a daily fight from a lot of levels. It's really cool to see the fruits of that labor and these facilities here are second to none. I've been to a lot of places and we've seen some good schools on paper, and this place is as easy to sell from a recruiting standpoint as any other program.
Q: Obviously, the work that Andersen and his staff did during his first four years here at Utah State were pivotal to the success of this program and where it is at now. What do you remember about that process that resulted in a WAC Championship, a bowl win and a top 25 ranking back in 2012?
Woods****: I remember a lot of it. It was incredible to be a part of something so special. I've had success, we've had success at other places, but what happened here, what those kids did here considering their past and what they had to go through, how much they had to believe in themselves to be able to achieve what they achieved is something that's very special. I remember the pure joy that as a coach you feel when you actually see something that you've worked so hard for so long come to fruition, both for yourself, but more so for the kids that are the ones putting in the work and making all the sacrifices. It was a very awesome experience.
Q: This is your 10th season working for Andersen. Talk about your relationship and why you enjoy coaching for him.
Woods****: We have a close relationship. For me, coaches a lot of times are just like recruits. You have opportunities and there's things that come up throughout your career. I always value loyalty in this profession. Coach Andersen gave me my first full-time job and I'll never forget that. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today. More importantly than that, I value the same things that Coach Andersen values. He lets me care about my players in a way that I think is the way you should as a coach. I know he cares about me, I know he cares about my family, I know he cares about the kids I coach, and I know he lets me care about those kids the same way. In this profession, that's very rare.
Q: Utah State’s offensive line lost four all-Mountain West starters from last year’s team. How has the spring been for you and that group?
Woods****: It's been good. There's definitely talent in the room and there's potential. The cupboard is definitely not bare in that regard, which is a huge positive. There are challenges when you lose experience. As an offensive line coach or as an offensive lineman, you can’t put a price tag on how important experience is. There's certain lessons at our position that you have to learn in person on the field. We're going through some of that right now in spring ball and that's why we practice. That's why we go out there and try to simulate game-day as best as we can on a daily basis. I'm pleased with the way the group is coming along. We have a long way to go, but I like the progress that they've made. They're great kids to coach, are fun to coach, and I love being their coach. I love trying to help them do what they want to do out on that field. They have what it takes and it's just a matter of developing what's in that room.
Q: Has there been anyone on the offensive line that has impressed you or stood out during spring practices?
Woods****: Andy Koch has impressed me. He's put on a substantial amount of weight since we've been here and also since he's been here. I look for big things from him this season. Both Ty and Karter Shaw are playing well. We have a slew of young talent. There's a lot of competition in that room right now and competition makes everybody better.
Q: What things will you continue to work on with the offensive line between now and the start of fall camp?
Woods****: We will work on the overall techniques. Every offensive line coach is a little bit different with what they're asking and how you execute certain blocks. That's really where we have the most work to do is cleaning up with not what we're doing it, but how we're doing it. That's the step that we need to take over the summer and then into fall camp.
Q: You worked for Mike Sanford last year at Western Kentucky. Does that relationship make things easier for the both of you here at Utah State?
Woods****: It does and there's familiar ground on both sides of that coin, which is helpful. As a staff, we're a team too. We have to jell and we have to work well together, just like the kids. That's a huge positive having Coach Sanford here.
Q: What have your impressions been of the Aggie offense thus far this spring?
Woods****: It's explosive and exciting. If you blink, you'll miss it and it's fun to be a part of.
Q: What have you seen from the Aggie defense this spring?
Woods****: I've seen tremendous scheme on that side of the football, something I'm familiar with being with Coach Andersen for so long. It's an in-your-face defense, aggressive and they put a lot of pressure on the offensive line and on the quarterback to make plays. We have a couple of elite players on that side of the ball, (David) Woodward being one of them. I don't know if we've blocked him yet through 10 practices. Tipa Galeai is a real problem to try to keep him off your quarterback. I'm excited to watch both of those kids play this fall.
Q: How did you get into coaching?Comment on this story
Woods: I was playing as Azusa Pacific University, which is a small Christian college in Southern California. Those guys were very similar to high school coaches and they weren't making a lot of money. It wasn't their full-time job and they were doing it because they love the impact that they can have on kids. I fell in love with their impact on me and how they impacted me for the two years I was there. I wanted to pay it forward and do the same thing in my career. I wanted to try to go do it with that philosophy at the highest level possible. That's what drove me and got me into coaching and it's been a heck of a ride.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you are not coaching football?
Woods: I enjoy fishing and spending time with my family. That's the most important thing for us as coaches is to get time off to go hang out by the pool in July and have some fun.