Does Kyle Cefalo have real case to win Broyles Award?
The Aggies’ co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach has helped develop some great receivers over the years, but this year may be his best work yet
Kyle Cefalo has a way with wide receivers.
Be it at Utah State or Arkansas State before that, wideouts who have worked under Cefalo, the Aggies’ co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, have found great success.
There was Omar Bayless, who broke multiple Arkansas State receiving records and led the country in receiving yards per game in 2019, en route to being a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.
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There was Kirk Merritt, a two-time first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection in both 2018 and 2019.
There was Jonathan Adams Jr., who in 2020 was Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, not to mention an Associated Press second-team All-American and a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.
At Utah State there have been plenty of others, including Deven Thompkins, an AP third-team All-American and a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
There was also Derek Wright, who was honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference in 2021, and Brian Cobbs, second team All-Mountain West in 2022.
To name a few.
This season, his first as the Aggies’ co-offensive coordinator, Cefalo might be doing his best work yet.
Through 11 games, the Aggies are one of only two FBS teams that have two receivers with at least 10 touchdown catches — along with the LSU Tigers — thanks to breakout seasons by junior Jalen Royals and senior Terrell Vaughn.
Moreover, Utah State is the only team at the FBS level that has three players (Royals, Vaughn and Micah Davis) with at least six touchdown catches this season.
Royals is tied for third in the nation with 11 touchdowns, Vaughn is tied for seventh with 10 and Davis is tied for 43rd with six.
Altogether, the pass-catching trio has caught 157 passes for 2,177 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.
Making things all the more impressive, all three receivers are junior college products who were overlooked and/or underutilized in their previous stops.
Under Cefalo they have become one of, if not the most dynamic collection of wide receivers in the country.
The success of Royals, Vaughns and Davis has been enough to get Cefalo named as one of 57 nominees for the Broyles Award, given annually since 1996 to the best assistant coach in college football.
Will Cefalo win it? Almost surely not.
For one thing, since its inception, no Group of Five coach has ever won the Broyles Award and the committee that selects the winner is comprised almost solely of coaches who gained renown as Power Five coaches, namely:
- Grant Teaff, Baylor.
- Philip Fulmer, Tennessee.
- Steve Spurrier, Florida.
- Mike Bellotti, Oregon.
- Bill Snyder, Kansas State.
- R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M.
- Mark Richt, Georgia, Miami.
- Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech.
- Gary Pinkel, Missouri.
- Jim Donnan, Marshall, Georgia.
Moreover, every previous winner was a coach on a double-digit-win team. Utah State is 5-5 overall with two games remaining. If everything broke right for the Aggies, meaning wins over Boise State and New Mexico to close out the season, plus another victory in a bowl game, the best they could be is 8-5.
Throw in the fact that Blake Anderson calls the offensive plays for Utah State as head coach/co-offensive coordinator and past Broyles Award winners almost exclusively have been playcallers themselves, and Cefalo doesn’t really seem to have much chance to be considered the top assistant coach in college football this season.
All of that doesn’t mean Cefalo isn’t a special coach, though.
Per Anderson, he has traits that truly set him apart. Traits Anderson has seen firsthand for 10 years now.
“I think he has a unique knack for No. 1, building relationships with our guys. They absolutely love playing with him. He also communicates extremely well what we want. And he’s got a balance of holding (players) accountable, but also, those guys absolutely know he cares about them.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson on Kyle Cefalo
“I think he (Cefalo) has a unique knack for No. 1, building relationships with our guys,” Anderson said. “They absolutely love playing with him. He also communicates extremely well what we want. And he’s got a balance of holding (players) accountable, but also, those guys absolutely know he cares about them.”
Vaughn and Royals both echoed that refrain, with Vaughn calling his position coach his “best friend.”
“He loves to joke around with a lot of people, honestly, but when it’s time to get serious he gets serious,” Vaughn said. “He gets down to business on the field and he’s like my best friend, honestly. He’ll help with any situation you need. I love him.”
Both Royals and Vaughn credited Cefalo with helping them understand defenses better than they ever have, which has shown week after week with their play on the field.
On the season, Royals has five touchdown catches of 50-plus yards, which ranks first in the country. And prior to the Nevada game last weekend, Royals recorded a touchdown reception in five straight games.
The discovery of Royals and Vaughn and David and others may be the thing that sets Cefalo apart the most, though.
He has been able to, as Anderson says, “find value in places other people haven’t.”
“I think he and I are definitely on the same page of what we want, what we are looking for,” Anderson said. “I feel like we’ve been able to find value in places other people haven’t. If you go back and look, we’ve been together 10 years and we aren’t going to get to go out and pick the five-star, the four-star guy. We have to find traits and develop traits within the system.
“... As we start watching guys, those traits that we both know we need, we’re able to identify and take a guy that has only caught a handful of balls as a backup at Georgia Military and have now turned him into a guy like Jalen Royals. Or a guy like Micah Davis, who was really underutilized at the junior college he came from and now you are starting to see. Or Terrell Vaughn, who was a really solid player but very under recruited.
“We’ve seen that all the way back from Jay Adams and Omar Bayless in our time at Arkansas State. I feel like, I think all of those things make him a really, really good coach.”
Will it make him a Broyles Award winner? Probably not, but Cefalo is certainly deserving of recognition.