LOGAN, Utah – It’s been five weeks since Blake Anderson was announced as Utah State’s 29th head football coach on Dec. 12, 2020. Needless to say, if you follow the Aggies on social media, Anderson and his staff have hit the ground in a full sprint as they look to revitalize one of the top and most consistent programs in the Mountain West.
From Day 1, Anderson has focused on putting together a staff that has a good mixture of young, hungry and energetic coaches that are up-and-comers in the profession, along with some experienced and seasoned veterans.
“Piecing a staff together is critical to the area you’re moving into, to the style of play you want to have and the culture you want to create,” said Anderson. “So, I took all those things into mind, starting with the coordinators, and I wanted to be as diverse as I could. In this day and age, and in today’s society, it’s never been more important to be diverse and talk about inclusion and equality. A lot of people talk about it, but don’t do much about it. I wanted to put the staff together and take deliberate action with diversity, inclusion and equality in mind. I was able to hire really quality football coaches, and still maintain that focus on diversity.”
In assembling his group of assistants, which includes three former Aggies, Anderson has put together the only staff in the country that has minorities in the positions of offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning head coach.
“We ended up with coordinators on both sides of the ball that are minority coaches, who have great backgrounds, and done a phenomenal job,” Anderson said. “They also have connections to the recruiting areas that are going to be really important, when you consider Texas and California. Both Anthony Tucker and Ephraim Banda have tremendous backgrounds and connections to key areas for us. What they’ve done on offense and defense speaks for itself. We built the staff from there, out, keeping those thoughts in mind.
“I also wanted youth, energy, great recruiters, great teachers and really good guys to be around. I utilized both Tucker and Ephraim’s connections, as well as mine. You’ll see guys that have coached and played and been around me, and some that have been around those guys. We were able to keep some guys at home, too, with DJ Tialavea, Al Lapuaho and Chuckie Keeton. I think it’s a really good blend of all those things, all of which will help us have a very energetic, detail-oriented, diverse staff starting out day one of a new era.”
The other area that never, ever, ends as a collegiate coach is recruiting. Anderson and company have been very active in adding talent to a roster that needed an upgrade on both sides of the ball.
“Recruiting never stops and we had to hit it running,” Anderson said. “We took the approach of securing the guys who were already committed that we felt like fit the culture we are going to create. We had several that chose to move on and several that chose to stay with us. We are excited about the ones that are coming in, including several that will be here next week. As much as we could, without having worked with the team, we were able to secure a handful of quality veteran transfers that we can plug in and play. They will, hopefully, fill in some gaps in the roster so we can be as competitive as possible on day one.”
When asked about the kind of culture Anderson wants to create at Utah State, he was steadfast in three core values that have proven successful for him over time.
“Our core values are selfless, tough and accountable. I want guys that care more about their teammates than themselves, and guys that are willing to give back to their program and community,” Anderson said. “I want guys that will fight through adversity because it’s going to come. It’s not a matter of if, but when and how bad, and they’ve already been through things. And, accountable to me is just doing the job that they’ve set out to do with honesty, integrity and discipline. That means being able to say something and being able to follow through with it. The quality of the work that you do and the detail you put into it. That’s what our culture is going to be about. We talk about faith, family and fun, and that just goes into the kind of people we’re going to be. That’s the kind of coaches I’ve hired and who I want to be. I try to honor God with how I do my job, building the best family and culture environment I can and have a blast doing it.”
With his staff in place and recruiting coming together, Anderson and his assistants can now sharpen their focus inward as Aggie players return to campus this weekend for the spring semester.
“The first week we’ll get everybody acclimated, then our off-season program starts week two. We’ve got a seven-week cycle that will lead into spring ball starting March 15. We have a lot of work to do. We have to get to know the guys and they need to get to know us. After that, we need to work on being more explosive. As you watch tape, that’s the place that we can really affect the team, speed and explosion, through good old-fashioned hard work in the offseason,” Anderson added.
Even though the journey may have its ups and downs in the short term, Anderson and his staff are excited to get started building this team into one that can compete for a conference championship a lot sooner than one might expect.
“When the whistle starts blowing and the grass starts flying, you’re back to doing work,” said Anderson. “All the stuff that gets you there, all the stuff that surrounds it is what’s stressful. When you get back on the field doing what you love, when the guys get to play ball, that’s when it becomes fun.”