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Weber State football coach Jay Hill emerges as finalist for opening at New Mexico

Weber State coach Jay Hill talks with safety Trey Hoskins (7) during the first half against James Madison in an NCAA college football game in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Harrisonburg, Va. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)

When it plays at James Madison University in the FCS semifinals Saturday, coach Jay Hill will have taken Weber State football farther into the playoffs than it had ever been before. But the end of this Wildcats playoff run may also be the end of the line for Hill at the Ogden school

Hill is at the top of the list of candidates to take over the vacant head coaching position at New Mexico, according to the website footballscoop.com.

The position came open Nov. 25 after eighth-year coach Bob Davie and the school mutually parted ways following the Lobos’ winless Mountain West Conference campaign. Two coaches with ties to the Lobos, Arizona State’s Danny Gonzales and TCU’s Curtis Luper, have also interviewed for the position, footballscoop.com reported last week. It was surmised that with both those programs idle this weekend and national signing day coming up Wednesday, New Mexico most likely would have made an announcement if another, active coach wasn’t in play.

Enter Hill.

Hill, the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year, is in his sixth year at Weber State. He led the Wildcats (11-3, 7-1) to Big Sky Conference titles in the past three and to the FCS quarterfinals the past two before finally breaking through to the semis this season. His record with the Wildcats is 47-29 for a .618 winning percentage.

Hill cut his teeth at the NCAA Division I FBS level with Utah, where he started as a graduate assistant and worked his way up to a full-time assistant working with players on both sides of the ball. With the Utes he worked under Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.

With just 11 seniors listed on the roster, Weber State should return most of its team next year.

Of its five FCS All-America Team players, two — defensive ends Jonah Williams, a first-teamer who was also named the Big Sky Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and Adam Rodriguez, a third-teamer who matched a school record with four sacks in a win over Montana in the FCS quarterfinals last Saturday — will graduate. Junior kicker Trey Tuttle, a second-teamer,;and sophomore running back Josh Davis, a third-teamer; as well as junior quarterback Jake Constantine, redshirt-sophomore defensive end George Tarlas and sophomore running back Josh Davis all have eligibility remaining.

The winner of Saturday’s game in Harrisonburg, Va., will play the winner between top-seeded North Dakota State and Montana State in the FCS championship on Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas.

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