Jeff Grimes is one year younger than Ty Detmer, but that hardly tells the story of his college football coaching background.
The return to BYU of Grimes as the Cougars’ offensive coordinator – presumably, paired with more changes on the offensive staff – is exactly the kind of upgrade coach Kalani Sitake needs. The lack of a stronger staff around him contributed as much to Detmer’s downfall as his own inexperience, leading to Sitake’s decision to hire a new coordinator after the Cougars’ 4-9 season.
Multiple outlets, including The Salt Lake Tribune, reported Wednesday night that Grimes, the Tigers’ offensive line coach of four seasons, will move to BYU, pending official approval. LSU reportedly even has his successor in place, although Grimes is expected to stay with the Tigers through their Jan. 1 bowl game.
BYU’s job posting is dated Dec. 18, meaning an announcement could come Monday. Already, though, BYU administrator Chad Lewis tweeted a welcome-back message to Grimes.
The book on Grimes, 49, is that after working for nearly 25 years as an offensive line coach, he’s eager to become a coordinator. He may be taking a paycut at BYU, considering he makes $560,000 (more than Utah’s coordinators, for example) as a position coach at LSU, according to USA Today’s database.
LSU offensive tackle KJ Malone, the son of Jazz legend Karl Malone, has played for Grimes for four seasons. “He’s one of the best in the country,” Malone told The Tribune in a February interview in Baton Rouge. “He’s helped me develop not only as a player, but as a man. That’s helped me big-time, just because I let stuff get to me easily when I mess up. He’s taught me to put that behind me and come back.”
The only question about Grimes’ qualifications for BYU’s vacancy is calling offensive plays. He never has filled that role, aside from suggesting running plays. Otherwise, his work with offensive minds such as Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada gives him outside experience that BYU lacked with Detmer and other staff members in 2016 and ’17. He’s also familiar with competing against the country’s top-tier defenses in the Southeastern Conference.
One solution would be for Grimes to have a passing-game coordinator who’s responsible for those plays. That’s not an uncommon arrangement.
Grimes has done a good job with the Tigers’ patchwork line amid injuries to Malone and others this season, as LSU stands 9-3 going into the Citrus Bowl vs. Notre Dame on Jan. 1. LSU lost only to Mississippi State and Alabama in Southeastern Conference play, while beating Auburn.
Grimes also had increased responsibility with the Tiger offense in 2016 after coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were fired early in the season. He helped interim coordinator Steve Ensminger revamp the offense during a year that ended with a Citrus Bowl victory over Louisville.
Grimes coached BYU’s offensive line in 2004, Gary Crowton’s last year as head coach, and then stayed with coach Bronco Mendenhall for two seasons. He subsequently coached at Colorado, Auburn (winning a national championship), Virginia Tech and LSU, where he holds the title of running game coordinator.
Once Grimes takes the job, the next issue would be the composition of the rest of the offensive staff. Mike Empey presumably would be dismissed or reassigned as the line coach, Grimes’ area of expertise. Detmer at this point seems unlikely to accept a demotion and remain as the quarterbacks coach, but that’s possible. The other coaches are Reno Mahe (running backs), Steve Clark (tight ends) and Ben Cahoon (receivers).