Former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen joins the Weber State football staff as a volunteer

The Wildcats will be missing four starters due to injury when they play Utah

(Weber State athletics) Former Utah State football coach Gary Andersen, left, has joined Jay Hill, right, and the Weber State Wildcats this season as a volunteer staff member. “Gary is one of the best coaches in the country and we are lucky to have him with us,” Hill said.

Gary Andersen will be in the press box at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday.

This time, the longtime Utah assistant under Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham will be wearing Weber State purple.

After being fired by Utah State midway through last season, Andersen has joined the Weber State Wildcats as a volunteer staff member this fall, an adviser to the team’s defensive coaching staff.

“It was very mutual. He wants to be around the players,” Weber State head coach Jay Hill said of bringing Andersen on board. “Really, to him, he just wants to be around the game.”

Hill has called the Wildcats’ defense from the sidelines for the past four seasons. He will give up those duties this fall to co-defensive coordinators Grant Duff and Joe Dale because he is comfortable in their ability to call a game — and because he has ultimate faith in the new guy watching from the press box.

“It helps with Gary Andersen here,” Hill said of giving up his defensive play calling duties. “He can sit in there and say, ‘This is screwed up’ or not. Those are things where he’s really added to me being able to do this.”

Hill might not be where he is today without Andersen. It was Andersen who recruited him to the University of Utah in the late ‘90s and who later helped Hill transition into life on the sidelines. So after Andersen left Logan last year, Hill wanted to find a place for his mentor.

“I’ve always told Gary if there was anything I could ever do for him,” Hill said. “He did so much for me.”

Andersen brings more than a decade of head coaching experience to Ogden, having led teams at Southern Utah (2003), Utah State (2009-12, 2019,20), Wisconsin (2013-14) and Oregon State (2015-17).

Andersen was fired by Utah state midway through the 2020 season after a disappointing reunion with the Aggies. But Hill was eager to add him to the mix in Ogden.

“He’s one of the best coaches in the country,” Hill said. “We all know it. He’s been a Power 5 head coach at two different schools. To have him come on and help us is obviously a blessing for us.”

One to watch

Wide receiver and kick returner Rashid Shaheed is a three-time All-American and three-time All-Big Sky selection.

“In my opinion, he’s the best kick returner in the country, maybe at any level,” Hill said. “He’s dynamic. He’s got good vision. He’s got ball security.”

Shaheed was seventh in the Big Sky last season with 100.3 all-purpose yards per game. He led Weber with 21 catches for 251 yards and three touchdowns — and Hill said he is focused on getting Shaheed more catches this season.

“We just have to do a better job of getting him the ball,” Hill said.

Weber Wildcats injury report

The Football Championship Subdivision postponed the fall 2020 season until spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So after making it to the FCS playoffs for the fifth straight season, the Wildcats played their final game of last season in late April.

“It’s been such a short time since we played, but I think our team has really pushed through it and done what they needed to do to get back,” Weber running back Josh Davis said. “The injuries — you’ve got people battling small injuries, big injuries, and such a little time to recover. You’ve got to keep up on your (physical therapy) and trying to get your body right to play in this fall season.”

The Wildcats will be without four starters Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, most of whom suffered injuries in the spring:

David Ames, wide receiver

Ethan Atagi, guard

Desmond Williams, safety

Kevin Smith Jr., running back

“We’re hoping to get them at some point this season, but they won’t be there for this game,” Hill said.

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