SALT LAKE CITY — If Ute fans were looking closely at the sidelines during last Saturday’s spring game, they may have noticed two new position coaches — defensive tackles coach Sione Po’uha and linebackers coach Colton Swan — roaming the sidelines.
Most Ute fans already know Po’uha, who was a captain of the original BCS busters, the 2004 Utah football team that went 12-0, becoming the first team from a mid-major conference to break into the BCS, defeating Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.
“It felt awesome,” Po’uha said of the 2004 team. “I think it was just a result of how hard everybody worked and how hard everybody believed in each other.”
After his college career at Utah, Po’uha was drafted in the third round by the New York Jets. Po’uha spent eight years with the Jets, appearing in 106 games and totaling 260 tackles. Po’uha says that his experience in the NFL has given him a new perspective on how to coach players to one day get drafted.
“It was an awesome opportunity. It gives me the ability to have a player's perspective, to be able to help the players. It’s given me an additional perspective into coaching football,” Po’uha said.
After his NFL career, Po’uha coached at Utah as a graduate assistant for two years and as director of player development for another. Po’uha then went on to spend 2018 as defensive tackles coach under Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Po’uha found a lot of similarities between the way Navy and Utah run their programs.
“Navy, along with here, have both been great and successful programs. It was great to see the principles that apply here apply there as well, and the principles that apply at Navy apply here as well — hard work, perseverance and diligence are all the principles that both places exercise and that’s why they’ve become successful. I think it’s super awesome that you see those principles prevail wherever you are,” Po’uha said.
Po’uha is happy to be back at his alma mater, coaching the defensive tackles. He says that his style is always about the development of the players.
“My coaching style would be always with the development of the player in mind. I coach to be able to help them develop,” Po’uha said. “Some guys respond to volume, some respond to more pat-on-the-back, so whatever the players need to be able to develop, I need to be as much of a versatile teacher to help each and every one of them develop.”
Swan, on the other hand, comes to the U. after a storied career at his alma mater, Weber State. All told, Swan coached at Weber State for 15 years in multiple capacities — graduate assistant, safeties coach, co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, tight ends coach and special teams coordinator — becoming the longest-tenured Wildcat coach. Swan also played at Weber State from 1999-2003.
“It was hard,” Swan said of leaving the Wildcat program. “It was a long tenure there. I played there and coached there for so many years and bled purple for a long time. Obviously, it’s my alma mater. Coaching with Jay Hill, great opportunity. I’m glad that I had those opportunities to be there, obviously very excited about my new opportunity and looking forward to the future.”
Swan described the call to coach the linebackers at Utah as "surreal."
“It was kind of surreal. They offered me the job and I maybe fumbled and bumbled over myself a little bit and said, ‘Hey, can I call my wife?’ They said, ‘Sure, absolutely.’ I called my wife and asked her, and she goes, ‘I don’t know why you didn’t tell them yes on the phone.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know either.’ So I called them right back and said I’d take the job. It was definitely surreal. It was an awesome opportunity, for sure,” Swan said.3 comments on this story
Swan says that his coaching style is "demanding," but wants the players to know that he is there for them.
“I think, ultimately, I am high-energy, demanding. At the same time, I want to work with the kids. I want them to know that I’ve got their best interests in mind. I want my teaching to make sense to them, and for them to trust my teaching. That’s kind of my mindset and where we want to go,” Swan said.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is also a new addition to the coaching staff. Ludwig previously was Utah's offensive coordinator from 2005-2008.