Utah State promotes Wells to head coach

Utah State promotes Wells to head coach

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah State promoted offensive coordinator Matt Wells to head coach Thursday, replacing Wisconsin-bound Gary Andersen.

Andersen took the Wisconsin job Thursday, taking over for Bret Bielema. Bielema left to take the Arkansas job.

Utah State President Stan Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes said hiring the 39-year-old Wells allows the football program to continue to build on the tremendous progress made by Andersen over the last four years.

``We're not starting over,'' Albrecht said. ``This is not a step back. This is an amazingly wonderful step forward.''

The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The Aggies went 11-2, won the Western Athletic Conference and defeated Toledo on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They are expected to finish in the Top 25 in the final AP rankings.

It has been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan with a winning record was Phil Krueger, who went 21-12 from 1973-75.

Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State. He said recently that he would stay, but changed course to take the Wisconsin job.

Wells said Thursday that he owes a lot to Andersen, who hired him two years ago. Andersen lobbied for him to get the job, he said.

``He's the guy that showed me the blueprint,'' Wells said about Andersen. ``He's built this place with the help and support of the athletic department and administration.''

He thanked Aggies players for making plays and winning games, giving him his first head coaching opportunity.

``If we would have stunk, Gary would still be here and I would have never gotten this chance,'' said Wells, laughing.

Barnes said Wells was his first choice even though he had a list of other candidates. The athletic director said they have no doubt they have a coach who can maintain the success the school had with Andersen.

``This program is bigger than any one person,'' Barnes said.

Wells said he'll build off the foundation established by Andersen. He said the Aggies will continue to play up tempo, spread offense and that he will stay with the same general defensive philosophy. He said his teams will compete for conference championships yearly.

He said he'll focus on hiring a staff and recruiting immediately. He said the Aggies' recent success has generated a lot of interest from coaches around the country. But he said anyone he hires will have to believe in his philosophy of how to treat players.

``We are going to coach them hard, and we are going love them hard,'' Well said.

Wells played quarterback for the Aggies in the mid-1990s and graduated with a bachelor's in business marketing.

Prior to coming to Utah State, Wells coached at New Mexico, Louisville and Tulsa. He's from Sallisaw, Okla.

Wells becomes the 11th youngest head coach in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, according to the Utah State sports information department. He's only the second Utah State graduate to come back and become head football coach.

With 16 of 22 starters returning next year, Wells said the Aggies should be very good again next year.

``I am extremely excited to get these guys on the field in the spring,'' Wells said.

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10 Questions in 10 days: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart


10 Questions in 10 days: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart

The Redskins top two linebackers rank among the most productive units in the NFL. When healthy, Mason Foster and Zach Brown are highly efficient tacklers. In fact, Brown led the league in tackles for most of 2017 before his season ended with a foot injury. 

The healthy part is the trick. 

Last year, Foster separated his shoulder against the Rams in Week 2 and was shut down for the season by October. Brown played through nagging injuries all year before shutting things down in December. 

When both players were on the field, the Redskins defense excelled. In just four starts, Foster made 30 tackles to go with an interception, a fumble recovery and half a sack. Brown logged double-digit tackles in nine games last season, and probably would have more without the foot trouble. 

Foster and Brown are very good in the Redskins scheme, and both players are expected to be fully healthy for the start of training camp. Their injuries from last season are not the type that suggest durability concerns, and both players posted full 16-game seasons in 2016.

Foster and Brown aren't the question. The depth chart after Foster and Brown are the question. 

Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight, Josh Harvey-Clemons and rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton are competing for two or possibly three roster spots. 

Spaight is the most recognizable name in the group. He's been a good special teams player for Washington, and is well liked in the locker room. By last December, however, Vigil was playing better football. 

More telling for both Vigil and Spaight was that Harvey-Clemons took the starter reps alongside Foster when Brown was absent during OTAs. The second-year man out of Louisville has more physical gifts than either Vigil or Spaight, and now given a full year to learn to play linebacker, Harvey-Clemons could make inroads.

A safety in college, Harvey-Clemons can run. He was a bit of a surprise last season making the 53-man roster out of camp, so expect him to definitely have a shot this year. 

Hamilton will be the wild card. An ultra-talented player out of Alabama, he dealt with a number of injuries in college. Redskins VP Doug Williams talked gushingly about Hamilton after the draft, and if the former 5-Star recruit can stay healthy, he could certainly push for a spot as well. 

Prior to 2017, the Redskins kept four inside linebackers on their final 53 roster. In 2017, the team kept five: Brown, Foster, Spaight, Will Compton and Harvey-Clemons. Compton left via free agency and is now playing in Nashville. 

Foster and Brown are roster locks, and it seems like Harvey-Clemons gets the third nod. 

Spaight, Vigil and Hamilton better be ready for serious competition in Richmond. 


— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap


Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What does the future hold?

In this week's mailbag podcast, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir answer several questions about the Caps' prospects and Hershey.

How does the future look on the farm? Plus, they talk about potential weaknesses, their biggest surprises and more!

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.