Anderson is going places

By By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

One of the side effects of success at the collegiate level is that there is still room to move up. Mid-majors like Utah know this process all too well.

Experience two of the best seasons in team history, go 11-0 and bust into the BCS, throttle a BCS team on national TV, and then wince at the suitors who are knocking on the door ready to whisk your coach away with the promise of more money and national championships. The thing is, this isn’t just happening to teams like Utah anymore.

In the past five years, Nick Saban has been courted away from the national champion LSU Tigers by the NFL Miami Dolphins, only to get coddled back to college with a $4 million contract and more control of the football program at Alabama.

Ute fans, it’s time to start having your friend randomly punch you in arm to started hardening you for a big blow, because if head coaches are moving like hotcakes, coordinators are going like iPhones. And Utah’s got a pretty damn good one in defensive coordinator Gary Anderson.

Although Kyle Whittingham has built a reputation as a great recruiter, don’t count out Anderson’s role in bringing in some of the most athletic and quick players ever to grace the plains of Rice-Eccles. Top recruiting Web site www.rivals.com rated him as the top non-BCS recruiter in the country in 2005 and put him in the top 10 in 2008. In the interest of full disclosure, I have family members who know coach Anderson very well, but the only times I’ve ever met him were on the confines of a post-practice or postgame interview. Everything I’ve heard about him is true.

Anderson is a fiercely competitive guy who squeezes every ounce of talent out of his players and lets it spill onto the gridiron. He’s as intense and motivated to win as any person you’ll find on a football field. To cap it all off, he’s one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guy after the clock reads 0:00. Remind you of any other former Utah coach?

Gary Anderson is going to get his own football team in the near future. He’s already interviewed for several head coaching positions, but he’s no dummy. He’s got a pretty good thing going on right now at Utah, and his defensive unit is arguably one of the best in the country for the second straight season.

He’s also going to be a hard person to pull away from Utah. His roots are here in more ways than one. Anderson played center for the Utes from 1985-1986 and graduated shortly thereafter with a degree in political science. Anderson has been an assistant for the past three Utah head coaches. He’s also got a family with at least one son in high school, so he’s probably not champing at the bit to uproot the boys and wife Stacey out of Salt Lake City. You probably won’t see Anderson settling for a gig at Northern Iowa, or Idaho, but don’t be caught off guard when Anderson gets serious consideration from the likes of UNLV, Stanford and Washington.

I can’t imagine Anderson not being on a few college football team’s short list for new head coach, and if he’s not, then there are a lot of stupid or ignorant athletic directors out there.

It’s hard to find players and people who are as praiseworthy and excited about someone when a microphone or camera isn’t in front of their face, but that’s how it is with Anderson. Whether it’s on the record or off, the Utah defensive unit has full respect for its defensive coordinator.

If Anderson’s reputation doesn’t pad his résumé enough, then what he’s done statistically at Utah should.

Since Anderson replaced Kyle Whittingham as Utah’s defensive coordinator in 2005, Boise State is the only team to score more than 35 points against the Utes. As a defense, Utah’s average points per game allowed over that span is 20.22. In bowl games, Anderson’s defense has held opponents under 19 points per game. Then there’s the fact that after Utah suffered several devastating blows to its offense, the MWC’s No. 1 scoring defense last year was largely responsible for the team’s seven-game win streak. Last year’s defense also happened to lead the nation in pass efficiency defense, and was No. 11 in total pass defense and No. 5 in opponent third-down defense.

In a day and age when coaches and assistants change teams like fantasy football owners shuffle their rosters, it’s hard to imagine Anderson staying a Ute forever. With Anderson, the Utes would be virtually guaranteed to have a tenaciously competitive defense every year, but they’ll eventually have to start paying head coaching prices to keep him. So go ahead and take a knee and thank your chosen deity that Anderson is here now. Like I said before, it’s time to start warming up your body for a little shot to the arm, because Anderson’s good enough to go places.

[email protected]

Tony Pizza

Tyler Cobb

Utah fans need to prepare for the attention that defensive coordinator Gary Anderson will be receiving programs with open jobs.