March 13, 2013

Wells looks to harness power of media

MORE: Andersen takes over in positive position

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Matt Wells wants to harness the power of the media.

The first-year head coach at Utah State was promoted from offensive coordinator on Dec. 20 after Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin.

Andersen was 26-24 in three seasons but 11 of those wins came in 2012, which resulted in the No. 18 ranking in the final AP poll.

Wells will step into a job with actual potential after what was a graveyard for a number of years. The Utah State team returns 16 of 22 starters and is coming off its best season in history; if there was ever an opportunity for a new coach to keep positive momentum going for the Aggies, it is now.

Wells will be trying to spread the message in any way he can. The attention can only help bring more eyes to his program.

"You have to embrace the power of the Internet, social media, and television," he said. "Really we have been doing that here.

"Playing well on national television, having our kids showing well at the NFL Combine and just being in the NFL has been positive. Just having this all-round success has opened many more doors recruiting wise."

Utah State topped out in the Class of 2011 with the No. 77 class by Rivals.com, but fell to 115th in 2012. The Class of 2013 was set at No. 104.

Compared to other first-year coaches, Wells' class was very good. It was tied with Kent State and was rated higher than Arkansas State, Florida International, Northern Illinois, New Mexico State, UTEP and San Jose State, which were all breaking in new head coaches on a limited recruiting timeline.

It was the players who maybe had never considered the program before that really made Wells take notice.

"We have had players from Florida, Texas and Arizona reaching out to us," Wells said. "Our footprint has really expanded just from the exposure."

The top two players in this class were both from Arizona. Three-star quarterback Darell Garretson from Chandler (Ariz.) High committed in mid-January, just two weeks after three-star defensive back Jeremy Morris from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College.

It was the second season in a row Utah State landed a pair of three-star players from Arizona.

In the past four classes, the program has been filled by players from California, Arizona and Utah. The home state has provided 30 players to the roster; California has sent 26; Arizona has been combed for 12, while Texas and Florida have combined to fill in nine spots.

The local teams will always been the lifeblood of the program according to Wells -- who also played quarterback at Utah State from 1994-96.

"The quality of Utah high school football just keeps improving," Wells said. "The coaching is getting better and the product is as well.

"Our base recruiting philosophy is to get Utah kids. We want half of the team to be from Utah and continue to get guys from the state and keep them in the state."

With everything pointed in the right direction right now, Wells said that continuity was part of the reason for his promotion.

While that doesn't mean doing the same things in the same way as Andersen, there are many things that will look familiar to the players and potential recruits.

"We will try to be similar to what we have been," Wells said. "We will be no huddle, up tempo with power runs and vertical threats on offense. Our defense will be multiple and pressure oriented. We will be a blue-collar team based on work ethic and try to put our best players in a position to be successful.

"I think that continuity is important but it doesn't always mean the same faces in the same places. We have a couple of new coaches here but we are all committed to winning and we have a system in place that demands excellence."

Gone from the program are former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, special teams coordinator Bill Busch, running back and tight end coach Mike Sanford, and offensive line coach T.J. Woods.

Wells made his hires of Todd Orlando at defensive coordinator, Mark Weber as the offensive line coach, Luke Wells was bought in as co-offensive coordinator along with Kevin McGiven. He retained Jovon Bouknight, Kevin Clune, Frank Maile and Kendrick Shaver.

The group has been moving forward with spring practice and recruiting efforts.

Wells said that both fronts have been well covered.

"The depth we have built is exciting," he said. "With five returning offensive lineman, a two-year quarterback and seven on defense coming back, we have high expectations on the field.

"In recruiting we have a lot to sell right now. We are not selling vision and hope anymore; we have a product and something tangible. We can show kids championship games and bowl games. There (are) a lot of positives."

His hope is that the media continues to notice.

"The exposure helps," he said. "We do not shy from it and we don't shy from the expectations that come with that.

"No one will put more pressure or higher expectations on us than me. It is our jobs to meet my expectations which are extremely high."




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