"I've always liked longer hair, and so I grew it out when I was at Missouri," Yost said. "I kind of used it as a signature so people would recognize me. When you stand at high school practices and you get 10 to 12 coaches all standing on the sideline, we're all standing there with a polo shirt on, we all stand there and we look — there are a lot of similarities between everybody.
"This way, when you call a kid or you're talking to him on the phone and you say, 'Hey, I was at your practice.' They're like, 'OK Coach.' You say, 'I'm the one with the long, blond hair.' They're, 'Oh, I remember you, Coach.' It gave me something to kind of differentiate me from the other coaches in that way."
Yost, a 47-year-old Ohio native with 23 years of coaching experience including stints in the Big 12, SEC and Pac-12, has installed his version of the spread offense at Utah State. His task: revive an Aggies unit that last year ranked 11th out of 12 teams in the Mountain West in both scoring offense and total offense.
Last season at the University of Oregon, Yost was quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for an offense that ranked 20th nationally in passing efficiency. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, the first true freshman QB starter for the program since 1983, passed for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns with four interceptions in seven starts.
"His expertise in terms of being an offensive coordinator in the systems that he's been around, I thought the mix of that would fit our personnel and our program perfectly at this point," Aggies coach Matt Wells said of hiring Yost. "I also know that he's got a tremendous amount of experience and production at the QB position."
Gary Pinkel hired Yost as a defensive graduate assistant at the University of Toledo in 1994, after Yost spent six seasons as an assistant for a Tiffin University, a small school in Ohio.
"He was a young guy, but he looked like he got it," Pinkel said. "He has the 'it' factor. He has the intangibles, hard-working, very sincere personality. He's a trusting person. He's very smart, a very bright guy. He wanted to be really successful."
That decision in 1994 started a 19-year working relationship between Yost and Pinkel, who promoted Yost to recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach after two years at Toledo. When Pinkel took over at Missouri in 2001, he brought Yost with him as quarterbacks coach.
During his time with Pinkel at Missouri, Yost added the titles of offensive coordinator and eventually assistant head coach. While together, the duo built a record-setting offense in 2008, helped Missouri to eight bowl game appearances while Yost developed a succession of QBs who later played in the NFL, including Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert.
"He's a wealth of knowledge," Pinkel said. "I mean, look what he's done. Look at the people he develops. What he'll do [at Utah State] — he'll run the offensive scheme they want to run, and he'll adjust at quarterback to whatever his skills are."
Yost, who had turned down opportunities to leave for more lucrative jobs, stepped down in December 2012 and cited burnout as a reason. Yost and his wife, Carrie, have a daughter, Kennedy, and two sons, Keaton and Kamden. Amid the numerous job titles he'd attained on Missouri's staff, Yost said he wasn't doing good enough at his other two jobs — husband and father.
While Pinkel admits he tried to talk Yost out of the decision, Pinkel respected it and the two have remained friends.
"He loves players," Pinkel said. "He gets along with kids really well. He's just very smart, attentive to detail, creative. Really, he's got no limitations at all. I'm just being honest with you. He's just a very talented guy. [Utah State] is very fortunate to have a guy like that."