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Utah State Hires Utah Defensive Coordinator

Courtesy of Utah State University
12/04/08

LOGAN, Utah - Gary Andersen has been named Utah State head football coach, it was announced Thursday by Athletics Director Scott Barnes. Andersen becomes the 26th head coach in 115 years of Aggie football.

"The administration, from President (Stan) Albrecht to Scott Barnes, to all the support staff, have been unbelievably professional with everything," Andersen said. "There is an obvious commitment to continued building of the football program that can contend for a WAC Championship, and that's the bottom line. I look forward to working with the administration in building a quality football program."

Andersen comes to Utah State after five seasons as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Utah, where he has helped guide the Utes to a 12-0 record this season. Utah is currently ranked No. 6 in the latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings and is anticipated to receive a bid to a BCS bowl. Andersen has been a part of six bowl teams as Utah has a 7-0 bowl record since 1999, giving the Utes the nation's second-longest bowl winning streak behind Boston College's eight.

"Obviously, Gary's vast knowledge of the state of Utah coupled with his overall recruiting success will pay long-term dividends to our program. He will be focused and tireless in his approach to building and sustaining a winning program here at Utah State. We are all very excited to have Coach Andersen leading this program to the next step," Barnes said.

Overall, Andersen spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Utah after coaching for the Utes from 1997-2002 before becoming the head coach at Southern Utah in 2003 and then returning to Utah in 2004.

"It's a great opportunity and it's been a longtime goal of mine to be a Division I head football coach. I think every football coach has a niche as to where they want be a head coach and where they belong. I feel that Utah State is a perfect fit for my niche and what I believe in," Andersen said.

The 44-year old Andersen replaces Brent Guy, who was fired after posting a 9-38 overall record and an 8-24 mark in Western Athletic Conference action in four seasons.

"The quality of our applicant pool was exceptional," Barnes added. "Gary's leadership ability, vision and plan for football success at USU are on point. He absolutely won the interview."

Andersen was recently named a finalist for the 2008 Broyles Award, honoring the top assistant coach in college football. The winner will be announced Dec. 9 in Little Rock, Ark. He was also tabbed as the No. 1 non-BCS recruiter by Rivals.com in 2005 and was named a Rivals.com top 10 non-BCS recruiter in 2008.

"Utah State fits everything from a recruiting standpoint, to the student-athletes that we'll be dealing with on a daily basis as well as from a well-rounded academic viewpoint. At the end of the day, the best way to sum that up is when you're a head football coach, you need to look at what you need to do to be successful," Andersen said. "Without a doubt, Utah State has all the tools needed to recruit quality student-athletes socially, academically and athletically. These tools will allow us to build a succesful program and continue the success that Utah State provides not just for football but for life for our players, as well as my staff, my family and myself."

Andersen is the architect behind Utah's vaunted defense this season, which has led the Utes to their second possible BCS bowl in five years after winning the 2004 Fiesta Bowl championship, capping another perfect 12-0 season and becoming the first non-BSC team to play in a BCS bowl game. This year, Utah ranks in the top 25 in the nation in seven defensive categories including 13th in scoring defense (13.2 points per game), 14th in rushing defense (104.8 yards per game) and 18th in total defense (295.9 ypg). The Utes' defense is also ranked 11th nationally in opponent third-down conversions (30.3 percent, 50-of-165), tied for 15th in turnover margin (+.92), and tied for 16th in opponent first downs (16.2 per game).

In each of the past three seasons, the Andersen-led Utah defense has been in the top three of the Mountain West Conference in scoring defense, including a No. 1 league ranking last year, ranking No. 5 in the NCAA. Last season, the Utes' defense posted the top pass efficiency defense in the country and also led the conference in pass defense, ranking No. 11 in the nation. The past two seasons, Utah has led the league in turnover margin, ranking No. 13 in the country a year ago after No. 22 in 2006.

This season, Andersen has coached defensive end Paul Kruger and cornerback Sean Smith who both have had standout seasons as Kruger is on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, and is tied for 26th in the NCAA with 1.3 tackles for loss per game with a total of 15.5, while Smith leads the Mountain West Conference with five interceptions.

Against Utah State on Sept. 13 of this year, Andersen's defense held the Aggies' offense to 116 total yards, a season low, in then No. 22 Utah's 58-10 win.

The Aggies and Utes are scheduled to meet next season before taking a two-year hiatus, only to resume the series in 2012 at Utah State.

Andersen takes over a Utah State team that posted a 3-9 overall and 3-5 WAC record in 2008, marking the first time since 2005 that the Aggies had three wins in a season. USU also won three WAC games in a season for the first time in the Aggies' four years in the league. It is also the first time since 2003 that USU won three conference games and just the third time in the 2000's.

First joining Utah in 1997, Andersen coached defensive tackles and strong side ends for five seasons before being elevated to assistant head coach and added special teams to his duties in 2001. He took over responsibility for the entire defensive line in 2002.

In 2003, Andersen migrated south to become the head coach at Southern Utah, guiding the Thunderbirds to a 4-7 record and bettering their win total of the previous three seasons combined. He turned around a program that was 102nd in the nation in the final 2002 I-AA Gridiron Power Index, which is used to determine playoff selections, into the No. 36-ranked team in his lone season.

He then returned to Utah in 2004 as the defensive line coach before taking over as the Utes' defensive coordinator in 2005.

During his tenure at Utah, Andersen coached 14 first-team all-conference players (three this season), including two Mountain West Conference defensive players of the year in John Frank (1999) and Eric Weddle (2005 and 2006), as well as a consensus All-American in Weddle in 2006. Andersen has also coached seven players drafted in the NFL in Richard Seals, John Frank, Lauvale Sape, Sione Pouha, Jonathan Fanene, Eric Weddle and Paul Soliai, in addition to several other players who made NFL rosters as free agents.

Andersen's coaching career began in 1988 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Southeastern Louisiana, where he coached for one season before going to Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) from 1989-92 as the offensive line coach. His other coaching stints include Idaho State (1992-94, defensive line), Park City HS (1994-95, head coach) and Northern Arizona (1995-96, assistant head coach/defensive line/special teams).

A 1986 graduate of Utah, Andersen earned his bachelor's degree in political science. He played center for Utah from 1985-86 after garnering first-team juco All-America honors in 1984 at Ricks College.

Andersen is married to the former Stacey Lambert, and they have three children: Keegan and twins Chasen and Hagen.

Andersen is expected to announce his coaching staff in the coming weeks.