Provo • College football coaching veteran Aaron Roderick has too much respect for the BYU-Utah football rivalry to make Saturday’s meeting at Rice-Eccles Stadium a personal crusade against the coach and school that fired him nearly two years ago.
But BYU’s new passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach couldn’t be blamed if he did. After 12 years on Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s staff, the former BYU receiver and offensive graduate assistant was given notice on Dec. 30, 2016, that his contract was being terminated.
“I respect the game enough that I am going to give it everything I have to come out with the win. There is nothing personal,” Roderick said Tuesday. “I have a lot of respect for all those guys and still have a lot of great friends on that staff that I talk to often.”
Roderick said it “will probably be weird” to return to Rice-Eccles, where he was wide receivers coach from 2005 to 2009, then promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2010, only to be demoted after a year to wide receivers coach in 2011. He was promoted to passing game coordinator in 2012 and 2013, moved to quarterbacks coach in 2014 and then promoted to co-offensive coordinator with Dennis Erickson in 2015 and 2016 before getting the pink slip a few days after Christmas.
Erickson chose to retire, according to a school news release issued that day, while Roderick “was not retained.” Twice during his stint at Utah, Roderick accepted jobs elsewhere — at BYU and Washington — then opted to stay at Utah.
“I still live about a mile away from [Utah’s campus], so it is not that weird, I guess, but yeah, it will be weird to walk in there as a visitor,” he said. “I was there for a long time.”
Roderick insists he’s not bitter, saying he had a “really good run” at Utah and praising Whittingham as “one of the best” head coaches in college football.
“I probably stayed a little too long, but 12 years in one place is a good run. We won a whole bunch of games and I will always be thankful for those 12 years,” he said.
Roderick was the play-caller in the booth those two final years at Utah, and became the scapegoat when the Utes struggled to score in the red zone. They were No. 106 in the country in red zone offense in 2016 and lost three of their final four regular-season games before edging Indiana 26-24 in the Foster Farms Bowl.
So now he’s at BYU, having accepted BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s invitation to be an offensive consultant in 2017 before joining the staff full-time last December. Roderick downplayed having any special knowledge about Utah’s approach or strategy in the game. He does know that it means just as much to the Utes — nonconference game and all — as it does to the Cougars.
“There is so much excitement and passion in the state for this rivalry,” he said. “I have been on both sides of it, and regardless of which side I was on, I wanted to win for everybody that is invested in it. You want to win for your players and your coaches and their families, and of course the fans who give everything they have to their side of it. You just feel an obligation to give everything you have to it. It is definitely different than a regular game.”
Sitake said Roderick has handled the quarterbacks well and been a good support to himself and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
“Every quarterback is getting better every week, because ARod knows what he is doing,” Sitake said. “He’s been in that position for a long time.”
Grimes said Roderick’s versatility and experience with a lot of different offensive styles paid off when the Cougars changed their style in the middle of the season when freshman Zach Wilson replaced senior Tanner Mangum as the starting quarterback.
“It is not an easy thing to do, and I don’t think just any staff or any group of players would be able to do that,” Grimes said. “I credit his knowledge base for a lot of that.”
AARON RODERICK’S COACHING CAREER
1999-2001 — Offensive graduate assistant, BYU
2002 — Running backs coach, Snow College
2003-04 — Offensive coordinator, Southern Utah
2005-09 — Wide receivers coach, Utah
2010 — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Utah
2011 — Wide receivers coach, Utah
2012-13 — Passing game coordinator, Utah
2014 — Quarterbacks coach, Utah
2015-16 — Co-Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, Utah
2017 — Offensive consultant, BYU
2018 — Passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach, BYU