Aaron Roderick is the right choice as offensive coordinator at BYU.
He’s played an essential role for the Cougars as quarterbacks coach and running the pass game over the past few years, culminating in what everyone saw this past season with Zach Wilson doing what he did. Wilson, no doubt, is a great talent, but it was Roderick who made him greater than he would have been otherwise.
Former BYU quarterback John Beck, who now mentors QBs as a part of his job, got a lot of the credit for Wilson’s ascent in the 2020 season, as nearly every TV analyst told audiences, again and again and again, about Wilson’s offseason driving to Southern California on weekends to hone his skills under Beck’s tutorship.
But it was Roderick who had the greatest influence on Wilson’s success.
He was the coach who was there for the quarterback most often, not only teaching him in the ways of reading and recognizing defenses, how to process that information and use it to beat them, but also expanding the offense to utilize what Wilson knew and what he could do.
Roderick was fundamental in loosening the screws on former coordinator Jeff Grimes, whose inclinations leaned more toward conservative play-calling, toward rudimentary football. Roderick pushed for opening up BYU’s offense, preferring to attack with aggression.
It’s not that Roderick wanted to throw the ball 60 times every game. He wasn’t arguing to do the Mike Leach thing, rather he strived to make defenses have to worry about and account for every quadrant of the field, never knowing exactly where the Cougars would go with the ball.
If that meant giving the ball to Tyler Allgeier, well … all right, then. If it called for Wilson to launch a pass 55 yards downfield to a streaking Dax Milne, that was OK, too. And there also was a whole lot of in-between going on, intermediate routes made available to Wilson, requiring from him the same kind of throws he’ll be asked to complete on the reg after he’s selected early in the first round of the NFL draft.
Some might reflect back upon Roderick’s methodology when he was deeply involved in the offense at Utah, caught in the swell and swirl of Ute offensive coordinators under the direction of Kyle Whittingham, back when the last thing any coach could brag about was the electrifying success of quarterbacks in that fold.
But at that time, Whittingham, a great head coach who has always favored defense over offense, was afraid to allow his offensive assistants to hit the throttle hard, considering the worst thing that could happen to any team — namely, the defensive side — was for a quarterback to throw a pick. That was death. And the dark overlord — we use that term at least partially endearingly — stressed to players and coaches alike to avoid putting reward ahead of risk when it came to advancing the ball.
Taking those kinds of chances, putting Utah’s defense in disadvantageous positions, wouldn’t just stir a scolding from the lead guy, it would conjure deep in the bowels of the football offices a reaction from him that included steam off the brow, the spinning around of his head, round and round and round, along with projectile vomiting, and other unspeakable things.
Which is to say, Roderick was shackled at Utah, unable to utilize all his acumen.
It was that way when he first got to BYU, too. But as time went by, he convinced those around him to live and let live, to pass and let pass, to launch the offense with that aggression, to take it to a place where LaVell himself, from somewhere in the great beyond, would crack a few grins and nod a few approving nods.
That’s what everyone saw this last season. And while Grimes is the one who got a new job at a new school, presumably for more money, it is Roderick who was the spark that lit the fire.
And now, he gets the offensive director’s chair.
While BYU faces a fight ahead with the loss of Wilson, Milne and offensive tackle Brady Christensen, among others, and with a much more difficult schedule next season, the dude who believes that a BYU offense should look like a BYU offense will go on making his vision as real as it can be.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.