The word that kept cropping up around Utah State’s short search for a coach to replace Gary Andersen was … consistency.
That’s what Aggie administrators — along with a certain quarterback who goes by the name of Chuckie, who happened to have a convenient redshirt year available to him, should he choose to transfer — wanted. And that’s what they got, sort of, in Matt Wells. The relatively inexperienced former offensive coordinator had been around for only one season, but, oh, what a season it was. It was good enough evidence, along with a scheduled brief — but apparently satisfactory — interview that was, out of the Aggie blue, elongated into the better part of Wednesday.
Nobody knows exactly what Wells told and sold athletic director Scott Barnes and school president Stan Albrecht, but they were buying, offering the former Aggie quarterback Andersen’s old job Thursday morning. He accepted.
What Wells is inheriting is a completely different situation than what Andersen walked into four seasons ago, back when USU stunk. There was heavy fumigating needed back then. The Aggies had some athletes. They always have. They just didn’t have enough of them, nor did they have an uncluttered plan for gaining and directing those athletes. Even worse, they had no clue how to win.
They do now.
They expect to win now.
They expect next season to be all of what this season was — and more.
Most new coaches would prefer that kind of pressure over any sort of bare cupboard that offered little promise. After that just-completed, sweet-smelling 11-2 campaign, the best in school history, and 75 percent of the mainline players returning, including Chuckie Keeton, there is pressure. What there is none of is planned road construction ahead of the Ags. There are no orange barrels here, just 50 miles of open freeway with a few high-banked turns.
If he didn’t, Wells should have told Barnes and Albrecht that he was, first and foremost, going to resist the temptation to put too much ego into this thing, to embrace change just to embrace it, and, instead, simply stay out of momentum’s way. Let the Aggies roll forward.
With Andersen stealing so much of the former Utah State coaching staff, there will have to be smart tweaks, but messing the Aggies up with too much meddling would be a mistake. At the same time, Wells will have to take the wheel and keep everybody in the program from getting fatheaded about this year’s success. An outfit unaccustomed to winning that sees as much progress as USU did sometimes loses perspective and edge. Wells has to keep ahold of both.
He’s flat-out been handed the keys to a Maserati that still has a Hyundai nameplate on it. Like the replacement coaches at Boise State have done over the years, he has to drive that sucker hard and fast. If he does it without getting ham-fisted, he’ll make it through the twisties just fine. It’s up to him to do it right.
Nobody on the outside knows that much about Wells, other than the facts that he improved the offense this past year and he’s an emotional guy who can fire things up. Everybody was clear, when it appeared that Andersen was getting interest from other schools, that Wells wanted to be the next head coach of the Aggies. Now that he is, he’ll have to take advantage of all the ground Utah State has made up, and burn on down the boulevard in front of him. Expectations are high and the track is wide. What more could a new coach want?
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.