Lobos remember Utah State's Matt Wells as intelligent, positive
If he chooses to indulge for a little while, Matt Wells will have a lot of memories to reflect on in Albuquerque.
In his three seasons across two separate stints at New Mexico, Wells has some good memories (a 9-4 year in 2007) and some tough ones (a 1-11 campaign in 2010). He coached some standout players, including Travis Brown and Marcus Smith who each had 1,000 yards receiving in 2007. His 2010 special teams unit was a bright spot on a dark year.
On a personal note, his son Wyatt was born there.
But Wells insisted earlier this week that his focus was on the game.
"It will be neat to go see some of that. But this is a business trip," he said. "We're going there to compete and win a ball game and stay on track for some of our goals here. But it's different than going to a stadium you've never been to."
On the opposite sideline, Wells' former players will be trying to beat him, perhaps no better example than star running back Kasey Carrier, who said in Mountain West media days that he wished him nothing but the best, "except against us."
Even down the depth chart, Wells' tenure is well-remembered, although the pool of players who do remember him is shrinking. One of those is former walk-on Jeric Magnant, who is second on the team in receptions.
During 2010 when Magnant was a freshman, a veteran corner pressed him in a drill and made him look bad. As Magnant walked to the sideways with his head hanging low, Wells challenged him: Was he going to give up, or was he going to be a player?
"A lot of walk-on kids don't feel welcome to the program, they feel kind of on the outskirts," Magnant said. "I never felt that way with Coach Wells. He told me from Day 1 I was just a part of the team as much as anyone else. He thought I had some talent to work with, so he expected me to work harder than the scholarship players."
Several Lobos said that Wells' attitude in that trying season helped carry their spirits. No matter what happened on Saturday, Wells was always upbeat the next week, always encouraging.
"Win, lose or draw, he was always positive every day," linebacker Javarie Johnson said. "I thought he was real intelligent, just a good coach."
New Mexico players who remember Wells expect him to steer Utah State through its current rough patch of injuries and losses. Even then, Wells preached that the reserves needed to be prepared at any moment to take over something he's said recently about his Aggie quarterbacks.
"I remember coach Wells always said if you stay ready, then you don't have to get ready," Magnant said. "I'm sure personnel wise he's got the second-stringers and third stringers ready to step in. They'll figure it out."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon