The current state of Justin Anderson’s office speaks louder than any attempted description of the last week of his life.
Mostly bare, a few new items strewn about, and not lived in at all, Anderson’s small space in the football building is a testament to the in-flux nature of his life right now. He just sold his house in Virginia on Tuesday. He spent a couple of hours at his new job at BYU on Wednesday, but by Thursday he was back on the road.
Last Sunday he was the director of player personnel at East Carolina. Now, after one Zoom call with head coach Kalani Sitake, he is arguably one of the most influential voices in the program’s move to the Big 12.
And to think, a week ago Anderson didn’t even know BYU was hiring.
“It all happened really quickly,” Anderson said, who was hired to the same position at BYU on Monday. “You know, I never thought I would be back at BYU. I understand the pressures that come with [this job]. It has been a whirlwind.”
But for as much as his own life has taken a dive into instability, it’s fitting for the job he is taking on. Anderson will now be the head architect of a BYU recruiting strategy that nearly overnight must become on par with the Big 12 and the Power Five.
He will be the one tasked to reinvent BYU’s recruiting imprint in previously dormant places like Texas, Florida and Ohio. He will also be the one trying to revamp the transfer portal strategy, knowing the churn of the portal is often what breeds success in this era of college football.
So if he wanted to settle into his office, there won’t be much time to do it at BYU. Not at least until BYU officially enters the Big 12 in 2023.
“There will definitely be different challenges,” said Anderson, who played at BYU from 2000-02. “But like I said, I’ve grown up here and this is home for me. I’m thrilled to be back.”
Anderson can talk all he wants about how he wanted to come back to BYU, but the truth is the Cougars needed his voice just as much as he wanted them.
In Sitake’s overhaul of the organizational chart this week — in preparation for the ramp-up to the Big 12 — he purposefully left the director of player personnel role empty for an outside hire. He promoted people from within several times, but knew for a job as important as this one, he needed somebody with experience in the Power Five.
Anderson fits that mold. He spent five years at the University of Virginia in the ACC. There he was part of a rebuild that saw UVa go from two wins in 2016 to bowl eligible in 2017. By the end of his tenure, Virginia was contending for the conference championship.
While BYU is not UVa, the schools can commiserate with the amount of challenges they face. UVa is a public school with out-of-state tuition that operates closer to an Ivy League institution. Its admission standards for athletes are high. And to top it off, Virginia football carried little weight in comparison to league foes like Clemson, Florida State and Miami.
But Anderson navigated the Cavaliers to two of their highest recruiting classes in program history. He oversaw strategic transfers and a new recruiting strategy.
“He has the experience of seeing what it is like from a P5 level,” Sitake said.
At BYU, the challenges are different but not less numerous. BYU will have to work up name recognition in the Big 12 — a conference that is primarily stationed three hours away by plane. It will have to build up depth on the roster. And it will have to work out a recruiting model that can handle more transfers along with return missionaries.
But for now Anderson feels confident. He returned to BYU where he saw former teammates and friends, including Sitake, who he played with 2000.
He also knows he won’t have much time to think about the challenges anyway. It is a job that needs him to hit the ground running.
And besides, he will remind you, if it’s not the job that will keep him up, it’s his personal life. After all, he had to get back on a plane to Virginia the next morning and pick up his wife and six kids. Maybe, after that, he can spare a couple of minutes to break in his new office.
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