Lone Star State bound: Utah State’s Matt Wells named Texas Tech’s new head coach

Aggies head coach leaves Logan after going 44-34 in six seasons

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah State Aggies head coach Matt Wells during the game at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium Friday, September 29, 2017. Utah State Aggies defeated Brigham Young Cougars 40-24.

Utah State football coach Matt Wells is headed to the Lone Star State.

Wells, who led USU to a 10-2 regular season finish this season and a regular spot in the Top 25 poll in 2018, was named head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders Thursday night. Wells is expected to be formally introduced Saturday at 10 a.m.

“Quickly in the interview process, it became clear Matt Wells and his leadership style were a perfect fit to lead our football program,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said in a release. “We have a great future in store under Coach Wells, and I firmly believe he is the right coach to take us to an elite level. We are thrilled to welcome Coach Wells and his family to Lubbock.”

The Salt Lake Tribune learned earlier Thursday evening that Wells plans to take offensive coordinator David Yost and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson with him to Texas Tech. The release announcing Wells' hiring confirmed that both Yost and Patterson are bound for Lubbock. Yost is a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Wells, who had one year left on his contract with the Aggies, replaces former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired last week. According to USA Today, either Wells or Texas Tech must pay his $800,000 buyout, per his contract with USU. In his six years as USU’s head coach, Wells compiled a 44-34 overall record, a 30-18 conference record and a 2-2 record in bowl games. Wells' 44 wins are second-most in Utah State history.

“I would like to thank Matt and his wife Jen for their significant contributions to Utah State University," USU athletic director John Hartwell said in a release. “Matt and his staff did an outstanding job of making Aggie football one of the best programs in the West. This is a special place and I am as excited as ever about our bright future.”

Wells was named the Mountain West Conference coach of the year for the second time on Wednesday. He last won the award in 2013.

Under Wells, the Aggies have qualified for a bowl game five of the last six seasons, including this year. Utah State also competed in two bowl games when Wells was USU’s offensive coordinator under Gary Andersen in 2011 and 2012.

Utah State recently lost to Boise State for a chance to compete for the Mountain West Conference championship on November 24. USU will find out Sunday who it will face for its upcoming bowl game, but it remains to be seen whether or not Wells, Yost and Patterson will be on the sidelines for it.

“This is an extremely attractive job and we have already had tremendous interest from some very good football coaches and some very good people," Hartwell continued. "We have a roster full of talented young men who represent Utah State University very well on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

“We will move as quickly and efficiently as we can with this search, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure we have the right person to build upon our success.”

The Aggies scored at least 50 points 14 times and 60-plus points six times — both school records — this season. USU’s ball-hawking defense also received accolades this season. The Aggies had a top-three scoring offense in the nation this past season under Wells and Yost. Just two years prior, with a different offensive coordinator, the scoring offense was 107th in the nation.

Under Wells, the Aggies were tough at home, going 27-9 at Maverik Stadium in his six years at the helm.

“My family and I are excited to join the Red Raider family,” Wells said in a release from Texas Tech. “I can’t thank Kirby Hocutt, Tony Hernandez and Dr. [Lawrence] Schovanec enough for this opportunity. I am excited to meet the team and get to work on building an elite program that Red Raider fans will enjoy every Saturday.”

The NFL has seen a slew of Wells' players over the years. Twenty-four players who played under Wells have logged time in the league.

Wells played quarterback for Utah State from 1993-1996.

Wells' move to Texas Tech marks his seventh coaching job since his career started in 1997 at Navy, where he was an assistant for four years. From there he coached at Tulsa for four years, New Mexico for two, then made one-year stops at Louisville and New Mexico before being hired by Utah State as an assistant.

The Aggies gave Wells his first head coaching job in 2013.