<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Utah State made the right decision.
Not only did the university make the right decision in hiring offensive coordinator Matt Wells as the Aggies’ next head coach, but the university made the right decision in doing it quickly.
Wells is the right decision for multiple reasons, not the least of which is continuity. The hasty departure of Gary Andersen blindsided nearly everyone, including the players, and this swift move by USU goes a long way in solidifying the program and the team.
Wells is someone both this team and incoming recruits are familiar with and have faith in. A quick look at social media accounts from various USU players tells the story. They are excited. This is the guy they wanted. Many players reiterated those feelings after Wells was officially introduced as the new Aggie football coach.
“Definitely, I’ve been saying this is the right decision. Utah State – this program, this team, we have something special. If you’re involved, you know that we have something special. Coach Wells has definitely been a part of it, so he knows what we’ve got,” senior to be tight end DJ Tialavea said. “In my own opinion, if you brought somebody in that was new, I don’t think they would understand what we have. Coach Wells definitely knows what’s going on, he’s going to make the right decisions and all of our players, we’ve got his back and we’re going to make this thing happen next year.”
There were some questions about both Wells promotion, and the swiftness in which it took place. There was reported interest from various candidates, including current Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. That is the same position that was held by Andersen before he came to Utah State, and Sitake is powerhouse recruiter both in the state of Utah and in the Polynesian community – both of which are vital areas for the Aggies.
Wells, however, is a tenacious recruiter in his own right and has good relationships already built with many of the Aggies’ current recruiting class. USU Athletic Director Scott Barnes said he had conversations with multiple players regarding hiring Wells, and Barnes admitted that as soon as Andersen began receiving BCS interest, the Aggies began looking at candidates and creating contingency plans. At the end of the day, Wells was the clear candidate. No one else even interviewed.
“As a team, as players, I’m glad that it’s somebody that’s been in the program that knows how we work and it’s not a complete flip on coaches,” linebacker Zach Vigil said. “Everybody that I’ve talked to since this has all happened, everybody is on the same page. It’s too bad that Coach A is gone, but we’ve got our goals and we’re going to go out and we’re going to compete.”
The team isn’t just talking about competing in games either. Fresh off a WAC championship and with 16 of 22 starters returning next season, the Aggies plan on immediately competing for a conference title in their first year in the Mountain West.
“We haven’t physically gotten together as a team, but over conversations on the phone and social media, we’ve discussed a lot about next year and how excited we are and how things are going to be really good from here on out,” receiver Travis Van Leeuwen said. “Losing Coach A is tough, but I think we’ll be fine and pick up right where we left off, if not even better. The future is really bright, and I think we can do great things next year, even better than this last season.”
One of the biggest knock on Wells has been his (lack of) experience. He is 39, has never been a head coach, and has only spent one year as an offensive coordinator – that being 2012 at Utah State. He has been a fast riser in recent years though, and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case.
“They wouldn’t have asked me to come in for the interview if it were a problem, not one bit,” Wells said regarding his lack of experience. “It’s something I can’t change, something I won’t apologize for. That’s going to be a question for everybody to answer. It was a question last year, ‘You’ve never coordinated before, can you do it?’ Well, those kids did it. They can do it again.”
Unlike Utah State teams of the past that have experienced success only to fall back into (less than) mediocrity when the head coach moves on to greener pastures, this USU team has the pieces to continue to make noise. Matt Wells was the right hire, and hiring him quickly was the right decision by the university. The Aggies will again make some noise in 2013.