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Could a coach with Utah ties fill the Washington State vacancy?

Several names familiar to Utahns were mentioned as potential candidates to replace Nick Rolovich, including two current head coaches in the state

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Washington State.
Utah State head coach Blake Anderson runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. Five coaches who’ve either played or coached in the state of Utah — including Anderson — have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Rolovich by national pundits.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

The latest college football head coach firing came from the West Coast: On Monday, Washington State announced Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants were terminated for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Could a coach with Utah ties take over the Pac-12 program?

Five coaches who’ve either played or coached in the state of Utah — including two current head coaches in the state — have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Rolovich by national pundits.


Utah State head coach Blake Anderson

Anderson is in his first season in Logan, and he has the Aggies rebounding nicely from a dismal 1-5 2020 campaign. Halfway through the season, Utah State is 4-2 overall and in strong contention for the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title.

He came to Utah State from Arkansas State, where Anderson was the head coach for seven seasons and led the Red Wolves to six straight bowl games and won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016 while posting a 51-37 record.

Anderson, whose coaching career began in 1992, also has Power Five coaching experience, serving as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2012-13.

What others said about his candidacy:

“He seemed close to landing a Power 5 job while at Arkansas State but could never quite break through. Anderson made what seemed like a lateral move to Utah State, but he could rejuvenate Power 5 interest with a successful first season. He beat Washington State in his debut in September and also has a nice win over Air Force. Anderson, 52, hadn’t spent much time in the region before this year, but he has a background on offense and very strong ties to his home state of Texas. He’s 55-39 as an FBS head coach.” — ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.


Weber State Wildcats head coach Jay Hill walks the sideline during the FCS quarterfinals at Stewart Stadium in Ogden on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.
Weber State Wildcats head coach Jay Hill walks the sideline during the FCS quarterfinals at Stewart Stadium in Ogden on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Weber State head coach Jay Hill

Hill has built a consistent contender at the Football Championship Subdivision level with the Wildcats since taking over the program in 2014. Weber State has made the FCS playoffs the past five seasons, advancing as far as the semifinals in 2019.

The Lehi native has a 54-34 record as Weber State’s coach, though the timing may seem odd given how the Wildcats have fallen short of expectations so far this season — the team has gone 2-4 this year, with losses to Utah and three top 15 ranked FCS teams.

What others said about his candidacy:

“Hill accumulated a wealth of on-field experience as an assistant at Utah from 2005-13 before becoming the head coach at Weber State in 2014.” — Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan.

“Weber State head coach Jay Hill is 54-34 in eight seasons, including four consecutive Big Sky championships and four top-six finishes in the national polls. The Utah native also spent 2001 to 2013 at Utah under multiple head coaches. He knows the region and how to recruit it.” — The Athletic’s Chris Vannini.


Offensive Coordinator, Jeff Grimes talks with friends and media after a walkthrough in their indoor practice facility in Provo on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.
Then-BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes talks with friends and media after a walkthrough in their indoor practice facility in Provo on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Baylor offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Jeff Grimes

Grimes is in his first season with the Bears’ program, after serving as BYU’s offensive coordinator from 2018-20 during his second coaching stint in Provo. He was a finalist for the 2020 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach, after the Cougars scored 40 or more points nine times in 12 games last season.

Now, Grimes is guiding one of the most explosive offenses in the country: Baylor is averaging 38.3 points per game (16th nationally) and 471.7 yards per game (17th nationally), spearheaded by a rushing attack that is No. 10 in the country, averaging 238.3 yards per game.

Grimes has plenty of experience at the Power Five level, too, working as an assistant at LSU (2014-17), Virginia Tech (2013), Auburn (2009-12), Colorado (2007-08), Arizona State (2001-03) and as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M (1996-97) among other places.

What others said about his candidacy:

“The Texas native has no ties to WSU. He’s a former offensive lineman who seemingly has worked everywhere, including Arizona State, Colorado, Auburn and LSU. But from 2018-20, Grimes was the BYU playcaller who developed quarterback Zach Wilson. And right now, he’s in charge of a Baylor offense that averages 38 points per game.” — The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner.

“Grimes has never been a head coach, but he’s assembled a solid resume as an assistant over a handful of stops and has made a big-time impact as a play-caller in his last two stints as BYU and Baylor.” — Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan.


Then-Washington State outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons, center, talks to the offense after they warmed up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Oregon State on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.
Dean Hare, Associated Press

Oklahoma assistant head coach/passing game coordinator Dennis Simmons

Simmons was a linebacker at BYU during the 1990s, but he’s made a name for himself on the offensive side of the ball, particularly coaching wide receivers, including time at Washington State. He’s been with Oklahoma since 2015, first as the team’s outside receivers coach, then adding titles of associate head coach in 2019 and assistant head coach/passing game coordinator this year.

Oklahoma is No. 20 nationally this year in passing offense, averaging 287.1 yards per game.

Simmons has twice coached Biletnikoff Award winners, which is annually given to college football’s top receiver. He worked for 10 years under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, then three more with Leach at Washington State as his outside receivers coach before moving to Oklahoma.

What others said about his candidacy:

“Simmons spent three years in Pullman helping Leach build the foundation when it was at its worst. Simmons has proven to be not just one of the best receivers coaches in college football, but also one of the top recruiters in the country. He knows how to recruit there and has played a big part in a lot of success in Norman.” — The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.


Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor watches the clock during the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Arizona State on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz.
Matt York, Associated Press

Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor

Taylor served as Utah’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. During that time, he worked with two skill position players, quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, who are now in the NFL.

Taylor has gone 11-6 over two seasons as Sacramento State’s head coach — the team didn’t compete during the 2020 season, choosing to opt out over COVID-19 concerns — and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs during his first season.

What others said about his candidacy:

“Taylor is a familiar name to many in Washington, as he worked from 2017-18 as the offensive coordinator at Utah and called the plays at Eastern Washington in ’16. He also was a successful high school coach in California before joining the EWU staff, but Taylor has garnered valuable experience as a head coach at Sacramento State since ’19. The Hornets went 9-4 in Taylor’s debut and are 4-2 through the first seven weeks of the ’21 season.” — Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan.