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Utah State football: Defensive coordinator brings energy to Aggies

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando during Utah State Aggies football practice Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Logan
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando during Utah State Aggies football practice Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Logan
Tom Smart, Deseret News, Tom Smart, Deseret News, Tom Smart, Deseret News

LOGAN, Utah — He has only been on campus for a month and a half, but his energy is already the stuff of legends.

His presence is unmistakable when the football team reviews film and there isn’t a single person on the offense that wants to take a hit from him.

No, this person isn’t Utah State’s newest prize linebacker recruit; he is new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

“I have never seen anyone with as much energy as Coach Orlando,” senior defensive end Connor Williams said. “We'll be in the film room and he'll be 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage and you'll see him buzzing at the ball carrier trying to strip the ball.”

A former linebacker at Wisconsin, Orlando takes over a defense that was one of the top in the country last season under Gary Andersen and Dave Aranda. While there is no denying the results from Aranda last year, Orlando uses a different approach. The Pittsburgh native believes in having fun on the field and turning that into excellent performances. In previous defensive coordinator gigs, Orlando led Connecticut to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Florida International to the school's best season ever.

“It’s easy to lose sight of all the time spent in the classroom and the weight room and the film room,” Orlando said. “Once you are in between the lines, you should have fun. I truly believe that if you are confident and having fun you will play better.”

During a prolonged search for a defensive coordinator, head coach Matt Wells reiterated he would not rush the decision because he was looking for the right fit. On Feb. 17, Orlando became the last piece of the new USU coaching staff and began the next day to prepare for the season. The short turnaround has kept Orlando busy – he admits he hasn’t seen much of Logan and instead has his nose buried in the playbook and the film room. It was this kind of dedication Wells was seeking and it is noticed and appreciated.

“Since he came in, in February, it's been 100 miles an hour for him,” Wells said. “We gave him keys to the building, a playbook and a car and he didn't need anything else. He's low maintenance and he's a football guy. He's a football junkie. He's bought in and those kids have bought in to what he does and what we're doing on defense. He's got a really good handle on them from an evaluation and schematic standpoint.”

The Aggies will keep some of the philosophies and schemes from last year, but Orlando is working to put his own stamp on the team. Utah State will use multiple formations this season with alignments tailored to putting the play-makers in the best spots.

“Being one dimensional is hard to do," Orlando said. "We will use multiple alignments and at the same time will try and keep it simple and fun. It’s a fine line to walk.”

Orlando said it’s too early to tell how good the defense will be and he is more concerned about using spring practice to improve fundamentals and identify his depth chart. According to one Aggie player, however, improvements are already showing, even in the second week of spring practice.

“They've gotten a lot better at disguising their coverage and blitzes,” junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton said after the Aggies' first scrimmage. “Even though I am checking at the line of scrimmage, trying to decipher who our offensive line is picking up, they are still doing a good job of bringing multiple guys and adjusting on the fly.”

Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.