Departure could spell trouble for U

By By Nick Pappas

By Nick Pappas

The road to Utah State University is a perilous one. Logan Canyon is a steep, winding highway full of blind turns and black ice. In December and January, the average temperature up the canyon is 20 degrees below freezing with a wind chill that makes snowmen shiver.

This is where defensive coordinator Gary Andersen wants to make a living, and the cold will be the least of his worries.

Utah State has been a cemetery for college football coaches. The Aggies are a perennial favorite for the ESPN Bottom 10, the popular news network’s measure of futility. Brent Guy, their recently fired head coach, won nine games in four seasons, a 19 percent success rate.

Utah fans wonder why Andersen would leave his cushy spot on the Rice-Eccles Stadium sideline, where he propelled the Utes’ defense to No. 18 in the nation. He is one of the most important pieces in a perfect season and is a finalist for the 2008 Broyles Award, an honor that goes to the top assistant in the nation.

These are the exact reasons he is leaving. A true competitor is not content with his lot, and strives for a lot more.

Andersen was named the new head coach for Utah State on Thursday and leaves holes bigger than Kennecott to fill for the Utes. With him, Andersen will reportedly take two important cogs to Utah’s success. Kalani Sitake, the inside linebackers coach, will be his new defensive coordinator. Aaron Roderick, the wide receivers coach, will be his new offensive coordinator.

Andersen has the longest tenure of any coach on the Utah team besides Kyle Whittingham. He was the defensive line coach during the historic 2004-2005 season and has kept the defense nationally ranked ever since.

Sitake has put three players on the all-conference team, including two second-team selections for Stevenson Sylvester. Roderick helped guide wide receiver Freddie Brown to a second-team selection as well.

While the on-the-sidelines presence of these two assistants cannot be discounted, their offseason production is a greater loss. Sitake is the main recruiter for the Hawaiian Islands, Tonga and Samoa8212;a major source of the brute force on the Utah lines. Roderick is the recruiter for Orange County and San Bernardino, Calif., and has brought the talent of Brown and Aiona Key, a receiver who should erupt next year, to Utah.

Think of a coaching staff as a team of salesmen. Their job is to take a broken-down jalopy and sell it as a jewel. Utah is close to having a product that sells itself, but still needs the men who get the signatures. The ties that Andersen, Sitake and Roderick have forged in the West will be deeply missed and their absence could be disastrous during the Utes’ offseason sales drive.

Those ties now live in Logan with a football team that is the equivalent of a jalopy after a demolition derby. What will it take to get student athletes to drive away in blue and white today? Andersen might be the flashy paint job the Aggies have desperately needed.

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