How tough will it be replacing Jeff Grimes with Aaron Roderick as BYU’s offensive coordinator?
With Grimes at Baylor, Roderick takes over as offensive coordinator for the Cougars
How tough will it be for Aaron Roderick to replace Jeff Grimes as BYU’s offensive coordinator?
It’s an intriguing question since the BYU job was Grimes’ very first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and Roderick had already done it twice at Utah in various forms and had that title at Southern Utah.
To break down this question you’d first have to clarify just what it was that Grimes brought to Provo in his return trip in 2018. He had gobs of experience — everywhere from Boise State, Auburn, LSU and Power 5 meeting rooms galore.
Grimes is a natural leader, a master teacher, a guy who players allow to hold them accountable because they want to please him. He is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in college football because he could get the big hogs to dance in harmony most of the time.
Replacing Grimes will be very tough because of the stripes he wore, his mind, his knowledge base and productivity. In both of his stops in Provo, BYU’s offensive line was elevated to higher levels. That isn’t even arguable.
But how good was Grimes as a play-call guy? Not bad, but he had some moments when he was challenged. Going conservative with a 20-0 halftime lead at Utah in 2018 comes to mind. But that decision followed Zach Wilson throwing a pick-6 to Julian Blackmon in the third quarter in an eventual 35-27 loss.
I’m a Grimes guy. He was articulate, funny, didn’t take himself too seriously, respected those he worked with, was a sweet bucket of quotes for us media types. He patiently described his thoughts, his offensive plans, challenges and aspirations. He was a professional.
What you don’t want in a coaching persona is a pouty, vindictive, over-sensitive, immature, egotistical person who holds grudges and looks down on others. There are plenty of those in the profession. Grimes was just the opposite, in wins and losses. He knew the weight and meaning of both and didn’t try to sell it differently.
Roderick has a ton of momentum heading into 2021.
Grimes and Eric Mateos, the offensive line coach he hired at BYU and took with him to Baylor, were not at the last game, a 49-23 bowl win over the University of Central Florida. It was the Roderick show. He pulled the strings.
That night the offense amassed 655 yards on 214 rushing, 441 passing for an 8.97 yards-per-play average against the Golden Knight defense.
When Grimes brought Roderick in to help as pass game coordinator and QB coach in 2018, it was Roderick who made it his first item of duty to bring in Wilson from Corner Canyon, who had committed to Boise State.
In a sense, you could say Roderick was responsible for approaching, selling and delivering BYU’s highest NFL draftee. Wilson was in his QB room. He was at the forefront of taking reps for pass plays he helped design and implement. That is saying a lot. Because once he got Wilson in his room, he got it done.
Like Grimes, Roderick will have the ear and voice of other former coordinators in Steve Clark, Fesi Sitake and Darrell Funk. Together, Roderick’s offensive staff has 90 years coaching experience.
Sitake, the former offensive coordinator at Weber State, is now his pass game coordinator.
But more important, as Clark and others have painstakingly explained, Roderick’s offensive staff will continue the tradition set by Grimes that all voices are heard, egos are checked at the front door and each and every guy’s opinion will be respected.
That’s a rare thing in coaching circles because everyone is trying to climb a ladder, make a name, establish a brand and reputation.
Roderick is known for getting along, listening. He’s also extremely studious with his research and absorbability. He helped Grimes whittle BYU’s offensive identity down to some simple philosophies, sets, and formations.
He still runs some BYU stuff he learned as a Cougar receiver.
LaVell Edwards’ coaching tree is long and has proved to be very effective. From Andy Reid to Mike Holmgren, to Norm Chow and new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham to Kalani Sitake, the roots have taken solid hold in the game.
Sarkisian offered Roderick a job at Washington before he was head coach at USC and that was after he just finished working with Nick Saban at Alabama.
Unlike Grimes, a collegiate offensive lineman, Roderick was a receiver, sprinter, punt returner, and what they call a “skill” player in his days at Ricks College and BYU.
He’s intelligent, personable, approachable, and dependable.
There are some Utah fans who’ve been critical of Roderick and his work as a coordinator there, play calls, et cetera. And there may be something to it, since they’ve had so many to compare over the last decade.
But sometimes a coordinator is only as good as he’s allowed to be. How long are the reins? What is the team’s philosophy? What are the offensive goals as they fit with the defense? How does a head coach view his coordinator’s job?
As for Grimes and Roderick, their head coach at BYU, Sitake has made it abundantly clear. He wants the offense to be aggressive. He wants it to take shots, take chances, gamble. He’ll take the heat for it, but that’s what he wants out of Roderick.
That’s part of the reason brothers Samson and Puka Nacua joined up — that and some family health issues with a grandparent.
Granted, this 2021 season is an entirely different kind of challenge. The schedule is much tougher. Roderick will be without three players drafted by NFL teams including Wilson, tackle Brady Christensen and receiver Dax Milne.
But he’s got a 1,000-yard rusher in Tyler Allgeier, a 12-TD caching tight end in Isaac Rex, and veteran receivers Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney to compliment the Nacua weapons.
I’d wager he will inherit a better offensive identity in 2021 than the one he helped Grimes tool, tinker with and settle on the past three years.
The offense Grimes and Roderick introduced Wilson to three years ago is not the same one that Jaren Hall, et al, will see in 2021.
It will be fun to see how Roderick builds on the bowl win over Central Florida, a team that finished 6-4 in a league led by top 10 ranked Cincinnati and only a few seasons from an undefeated campaign.
That week, that night, the last BYU game, it was all in the hands of Roderick.
And it looked pretty good.