Mike Canales, who has 31 years of coaching experience, including 23 years as an offensive coordinator, has been named Utah State’s assistant head coach, running backs coach and tight ends coach, it was announced Tuesday by Aggie head football coach Matt Wells.
Canales is a 1984 graduate of Utah State and played quarterback for the Aggies from 1981-83.
“It’s with great pride that I welcome Mike back to the Utah State football family,” Wells said. “Mike has a wealth of experience as both a coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and I know our players and staff will benefit from his experiences and knowledge. Adding an alumni and another former Aggie football player onto our coaching staff is, obviously, an ideal scenario as we continue to strive for a Mountain West championship.”
Canales comes to Utah State after spending the past six seasons as the associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Texas. During portions of the 2010 and 2015 seasons, Canales also served as the interim head coach for the Mean Green.
“I have always kept a close eye on Utah State football, and this is the perfect time and a great opportunity for me and my family to come back to my roots,” Canales said. “Obviously, I bleed Aggie Blue as a former player and I’m excited about the future of USU football. I will do everything I can to continue the winning culture that has been established here.”
During his six years at North Texas, Canales mentored 20 offensive players who earned all-conference honors, while also helping the Mean Green win just their third bowl game in school history during the 2013 season as they posted a 36-14 win against UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Under Canales, quarterback Derek Thompson won the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP award and led the Mean Green to a nine-win season in 2013 as he finished the season ranking second all-time in school history in passing yards (2,896), completions (251), completion percentage (64.4) and total offense with 3,053 yards. Thompson finished his career with 7,457 passing yards and 42 touchdown passes.
The leadership of Canales took the North Texas offense to record-breaking heights in 2013 as it scored 414 points, the second-most in school history and the most since 1951, and it averaged 31.8 points a game, topping the 30-point mark for only the third time in school history. The North Texas offense scored more than 30 points in seven games during the 2013 season, the most since returning to FBS football in 1995, and it marked only the fifth time in school history the Mean Green scored 30 points or more in seven games.
Overall, the Mean Green offense churned out more than 4,000 yards for the sixth-straight year in 2013, which is a school record and the fourth-straight under Canales, as the 4,751 total yards of offense is the fourth-most in school history. The Mean Green also rushed for more than 2,000 yards for third time in the last four seasons under Canales. In fact, UNT rushed for more than 300 yards three times in 2013, which is the most in a single season since 1959.
Along with its 31.6 points per game average in 2013, North Texas averaged 27.2 points in 2014, marking the highest scoring stretch in school history since 1968-69. In 2014, Canales oversaw a Mean Green offense that was the best in the nation in red zone scoring at 94.3 percent.
During the 2012 season, Thompson threw for a career-high 2,649 yards, which ranks fourth all-time in school history. Thompson also broke the school record for single-game completion percentage at No. 14 Kansas State when he completed 25-of-28 passes (.893).
In 2011, Canales oversaw the growth of starting quarterback Thompson, who threw for 1,759 yards, which is the fifth most in a single season at North Texas since 1995. The Mean Green offense closed the season by scoring 59 points, the most in a game since the 2009 season.
Canales also guided a North Texas offense in 2011 that featured its third-straight season of producing a 1,000-yard rusher in Lance Dunbar, who also rushed for a single-game school record 313 yards. Dunbar became only the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a career.
During the 2010 season at North Texas, Canales was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim head coach after the mid-season termination of his predecessor, Todd Dodge. UNT averaged 33.8 points a game after Canales took over as head coach, after averaging 16.9 points in the first seven games of the season. He also helped improve the team’s total offense from 348.7 yards per game to 412.4 yards per game and the rushing offense from 173.4 yards per game to 242.4 yards per game as he amassed a 2–3 record as interim head coach.
Prior to coming to North Texas, Canales was the offensive coordinator at South Florida for three years, leading the Bulls to the Sun, St. Petersburg and International bowls. In 2008, Canales’ offense led the Big East Conference in scoring and finished second in total offense. He helped his team reach a national ranking as high as No. 2 during the 2007 season and No. 10 during the 2008 season. Under his leadership, South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe became the Big East Conference career leader in total offense.
From 2004-06, Canales was the offensive coordinator at Arizona, where he coached true freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama to honorable mention All-America status in just five games. In 2005, Tuitama established the sixth-best season pass efficiency in Arizona history. Between 2004 and 2005, Canales developed an offense that improved by 60 yards per game, and the average in Tuitama’s appearances was 402.6 yards per outing.
In 2003, Canales joined Herm Edwards’ staff with the New York Jets, working one season as the wide receivers coach. With the Jets, Canales worked with Santana Moss, who finished among the top 15 NFL receivers that season with 74 catches for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns. His touchdown catches tied him for fourth most in the NFL as he was selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl that year.
From 2001-02, Canales was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina State, where he helped develop Phillip Rivers, who is currently an All-Pro quarterback for the San Diego Chargers of the NFL.
In 2002, North Carolina State finished 11-3 and ranked 12th in the final Associated Press poll after knocking off Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. That season, the Wolfpack averaged 392.0 yards on offense, including 247.7 passing yards. The team had a 3,000-yard passer in Rivers, a 1,000-yard receiver in Jerricho Cotchery and a 1,000-yard rusher in T.A. McLendon.
While at North Carolina State, Canales’ offense finished in the top 10 nationally in passing as Rivers was a two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference player and Heisman Trophy candidate. The Wolfpack made two bowl games with Canales, playing in the Champ Sports Bowl and Gator Bowl.
Prior to North Carolina State, Canales spent five seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at South Florida and was the quarterbacks coach for one season (1995) at Pacific. He also spent eight years (1987-94) at Snow College, where he was offensive coordinator with special emphasis on receivers and quarterbacks, and had a top-10 nationally-ranked offensive unit in seven of his eight years. While at Snow College, Canales also coached the softball team for seven years, leading the team to six region titles.
Canales began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Brigham Young University, where he learned from legendary offensive coach Norm Chow. At BYU, the Cougars went to the Citrus and Freedom Bowl.
During his career, Canales has coached five different quarterbacks that have earned All-America recognition, and he was named the National Offensive Coordinator of the Week while at Arizona in 2006.
Canales graduated from USU with a degree in speech communication.
Canales is married to the former Carol Chapuis. The couple has six children, Christopher, Tyler, Dakota, Aaron Norris, Christy Norris and Cameron Canales, as well as two grandchildren, Afton Norris and Micah Canales.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.