Provo • Eric Mateos still hasn’t found or even unpacked everything he quickly threw together when he made the overnight drive from Texas to BYU after becoming the Cougars’ new offensive line coach a couple weeks ago.
But the affable, quick-witted and fun-loving assistant coach has already embarked on a more important search — at least to BYU fans — as spring practices got underway in Provo this week. Mateos inherited an experienced and talented offensive line from Ryan Pugh, but needs to find a replacement at right tackle for all-Independent performer Austin Hoyt.
“Yeah, we are going to need five guys, every play. Sometimes six or seven or eight,” Mateos said Monday, seemingly prepared for the biggest question surrounding the 2019 offensive line. “That is what spring is for. My job is to find the best five guys, the best five players, and figure out what the best combination of those five guys is.”
In the media-viewing portions of the first two practices, Mateos’ early pick appears to be Chandon Herring, a 6-foot-7, 302-pound redshirt junior from Gilbert, Ariz., who played in 12 games last year. Harris LaChance, a 6-8, 303-pound redshirt freshman from Herriman has also seen snaps at right tackle with the first- and second-team units.
“So it might be your opinion that we need a right tackle,” Mateos said. “it might be my opinion that we need a left guard. It might be coach [Jeff] Grimes’ opinion that we need a different center. All that stuff changes as you go through spring and summer. I am going to move guys around a lot. That’s what this time of year is for.”
When Pugh left Provo to become Troy’s offensive coordinator, few could have predicted that the 30-year-old Mateos, born in Miami of Cuban descent, would be tabbed as his replacement. Until, that is, they discovered he worked with Grimes at LSU in 2016.
ERIC MATEOS’S RESUME
New BYU offensive line coach Eric Mateos’ previous coaching stops:
2011 — Assistant offensive line coach, Southwest Baptist
2012 — Recruiting coordinator, offensive line coach, Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College
2013-15 — Offensive line graduate assistant, Arkansas
2016 — Tights end coach, offensive line graduate assistant, LSU
2017-18 — Offensive line coach, Texas State
Mateos had spent three years at Arkansas before that (2013-15) and was promoted midseason from graduate assistant to tight ends coach at LSU. He was Texas State’s offensive line coach in 2017 and 2018, but found himself out of a job at season’s end when head coach Everett Withers was fired last November.
“We talked to a lot of different people, but I liked his style,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “I like his way. I like how he complements what Jeff Grimes does. He’s a little different than Pugh, but for our players, and the maturity our O-line has, I think he fits perfectly for what they need right now. They are ready to take the next step.”
Grimes said he’s known Mateos for a long time and knew he would fit in well at BYU.
“So I knew what he was all about,” Grimes said. “It has been great watching our players relate to him. He’s got a lot of optimism and a lot of energy and they are relating well to that.”
Receivers coach Fesi Sitake said Mateos brings a larger-than-life personality that is “perfect” for BYU’s offensive linemen to believe in.
“We have a niche here at BYU, the type of players we get. A lot of these guys don’t have to be kicked really hard. They are all willing guys who are really reliable. They just need confidence. And I think coach Mateos does a great job, and I think Ryan was phenomenal too,” Fesi Sitake said. “He is very personable, relatable, and these guys go to him for what they need. I can tell after two days that he is going to be great for them.”
Mateos said his coaching philosophy is to have confidence, play fast and know what you are doing.
“I keep it simple so guys don’t have to think a whole lot,” he said. “Play violently, with strength. Everybody has strong guys. Everybody has big guys. It is the guys who strain to finish that are really elite. That’s hard to do on every play, but the best do that.”