Wells put together a top-25 team at Utah State, making himself a rising prospect in the coaching world.
Texas Tech is hiring Utah State coach Matt Wells to the same position.
Please join us in welcoming our new head coach, Matt Wells!
— Texas Tech Football (@TexasTechFB) November 30, 2018
Wells replaces Kliff Kingsbury, whom Tech fired right after the season and who reportedly was close to a deal Thursday — but hadn’t made one — to become USC’s offensive coordinator.
Wells, 45, coaches a spread similar to what Tech’s been running for two decades. But he’s not an air raid coach like Mike Leach or his old QB Kingsbury.
The Aggies throw a lot. They were 123rd in Standard Down Run Rate this year. They run their offense at tempo, too, and are 18th in Adjusted Pace. Quarterback Jordan Love had a great year running a fast-moving, pass-heavy system.
But they’re not an air raid team that lines up with four receivers all the time and runs four verticals, the play most associated with the air raid. The Aggies are a bit more balanced and have built an offense that’s designed to be harder to stop on the ground.
As you’d imagine with a team whose two featured backs are sub-5’10, Utah State made it a focus to get the ball to fast dudes in space. The Aggies accomplished that in ways both standard and creative. The standard was simple zone reads to create footraces:
And they used innovative blocking schemes to make space in the middle of the line, which their running backs could then burst through for nice gainers:
Love this Same-Side Counter Variation from Utah State OC David Yost
▪️Trips to the Field
▪️Nub TE to the Boundary
▪️RG & TE(!) pull
Colorado State Spills/Scrapes – so the RG ends up on the Mike LB and the TE ends up on the 5 Tech, but I haven’t seen many teams pull the TE! pic.twitter.com/u3npfUnsSZ
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) November 20, 2018
It looks like a fun offense to play in, but in a different way than the air raid. Wells will now get to see how it works with Power 5 personnel, albeit against Power 5 defenses.
Wells has seen his stock skyrocket in the last three months.
A USU quarterback in the mid-1990s, he got his coaching start on Charlie Weatherbie’s Navy staff from 1997 to 2001. He wore a bunch of hats there, including QBs coach, fullbacks coach, receivers coach, and head coach of the Mids’ junior varsity team (a service academy thing). He was Tulsa’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for five years after that, then did stints as a position coach at New Mexico (twice) and Louisville.
He was at USU again by 2011, the offensive coordinator by 2012, and the head coach by 2013, when his boss, Gary Andersen, left for the open job at Wisconsin.
The Aggies won 19 games in Wells’ first two years in charge, when a lot of their roster was still comprised of Andersen’s recruits. But after going 6-7 in 2015 and then sliding to 3-9 in 2016, Wells was at serious risk of getting fired. He rebounded by getting USU to the Arizona Bowl in 2017, and then everything changed with this year’s 10-2 breakthrough.
What Wells did in Logan was impressive. In the modern history of the program, only Andersen — who went on to do a solid job at Wisconsin before leaving — was able to bring the Aggies to these heights. Wells’ .564 winning percentage there is better than the rate for anyone else who’s spent as much time as he has (six years) at USU. The majority of the program’s coaches have exited the job with sub-.500 marks.
It’s not an easy job to win at, given the lack of elite recruiting pipelines nearby and Boise State being in the same division. But Wells put out a great team.
The team Wells built at Utah State is extremely solid, top to bottom.
The Aggies finished the regular season ranked 22nd in S&P+. That advanced stat had them 21st on offense and 36th on defense. They built a solid running game behind two junior backs who are between 5’8 and 5’9, Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright. Wells developed an excellent sophomore QB in Love, who put up a 28-to-5 touchdowns-to-picks ratio.
Defense isn’t Wells’ background, but the Aggies played well there, too, holding up at a top-40 level against both the run and the pass. They had one of the most active secondaries in the country; USU finished No. 6 in DB Havoc Rate, a measure of how often players break up passes, intercept them, force fumbles, or get tackles for loss.
USU would’ve made the Mountain West title game if not for a tough late loss at Boise, the conference’s historic power. Wells was still named Mountain West Coach of the Year for a second time, and 18 of his players got all-conference recognition of some kind.
Despite not being in the Playoff committee’s top 25 at the moment, this team’s played like a top-25 team and has the opponent-adjusted statistical case to back that up. For the purposes of projecting how Wells will do going forward, that’s awfully enticing.
In a year without one hotshot candidate who clearly outclassed the field, Wells was one of the most desirable coaches out there.
Other than Jeff Brohm going back to his native Louisville, which didn’t actually happen, the coaching and media industries hadn’t identified one guy who had the stature of Tom Herman at the end of 2016 or Scott Frost at the end of 2017. But a handful of quality options with Group of 5 head coaching experience have emerged, like Wells, Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield, and Troy’s Neal Brown. Wells is a good get, especially this year.
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