With news breaking earlier today that Utah defensive coordinator John Pease retiring and safeties coach Morgan Scalley moving to defensive coordinator, Utah now has two openings on their coaching staff: wide receivers and defensive line. Scalley was also the special teams and recruiting coordinator, titles he will relinquish with his move to DC. Having two openings on the coaching staff allows Utah some flexibility in who they want to hire. We will look at some potential candidates at each vacant position and some potential shuffling of the coaching staff to open up other coaching positions.
The two areas where Utah has struggled the most compared to other upper echelon Pac-12 schools is in passing offense and recruiting. With these two hires, I think Utah needs to get at least one coach who is an ace recruiter (with ties to southern California, Texas, Florida, or the Polynesian community). Utah also needs to get a coach who has a strong track record of player develop at the skill positions (preferable either quarterbacks or wide receivers). Coaches who could check both of those boxes would be excellent to bring in for Utah moving forward to help the Utes take the next step in the Pac-12. The Utah defense has been stout, while the offense has been well below average, so I would be in favor of Utah staying in house for defense and bringing in two new coaches on offense.
Scalley took over special teams coordinator from head coach Kyle Whittingham for the 2015 season. Scalley was also the recruiting coordinator for seven years These are openings I expect will be filled by current members of the Utah coaching staff. From all accounts, I have heard the special teams coaching was a group effort, so it would not surprise me one bit if another coach on staff takes over the duties. I also would not be shocked if Whittingham took over again. For recruiting coordinator, the obvious choice in my mind is assistant head coach Dennis Erickson. Erickson is a fabulous recruiter for Utah. If Erickson does not want to take on the responsibilities, co-offensive coordinator Jim Harding or assistant director of player personnel Pablo Cano would also be great choices.
There are several potential candidates for replacing John Pease at defensive line coach. My top choice is current Utah tight end coach Lewis Powell. Powell was an excellent defensive lineman for Utah from 2001-03. His accolades as a player include winning 2003 Liberty Bowl Defensive Player of the Game in Utah's 17-0 shutout victory over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Prior to coaching tight ends at Utah, Powell was the defensive line coach at Hawaii for three seasons. At Hawaii, he coached defensive linemen Paipai Falemalu (2012) and Beau Yap (2013), who both earned second-team all-Mountain West Conference honors. Powell knows the defensive system at Utah, having played under Whittingham and spent time from 2009-2011 as a graduate and administrative assistant. Powell is also a good recruiter and is well respected in the Polynesian community. If Powell moved to defensive line coach, that would open up the tight end coach position. Utah's defense in 2015 was outstanding, and many of the key defensive linemen return in 2016. Because of this, it makes sense to hire from within the coaching staff to maintain continuity. If Utah however decides to bring in some new blood, former Utah greats Sione Po'uha or Steve Fifita would both be great options, as they have ties to Utah and are respected in the Polynesian community. Fifita is currently coaching defensive linemen at Idaho State University.
The other opening is wide receiver coach. Co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has previously coached wide receivers at Utah (and is currently coaching quarterbacks). He could move from quarterback coach to wide receiver coach if Utah wants to bring in an external quarterback coach. If Utah hires Powell for defensive line coach, the tight end coach position will be open. I personally would like to see Roderick move to tight end coach (and retain his offensive coordinator title for continuity's sake), opening up the quarterback coach in addition to wide receiver coach. Potential targets for Utah at these spots are former BYU wide receiver coach Guy Holliday and former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian to coach wide receivers and quarterbacks respectively. Holliday has a reputation as a good recruiter (and some have posited that he might be able to bring Snow College four-star wide receiver Jonah Trinnaman with him to Utah should he join Utah's staff) and position coach. BYU's receivers played well against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Sarkisian has a long track record of developing quarterbacks, including Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Jake Locker, who were all top 10 NFL Draft picks. Sark has always been able to recruit well wherever he has been, and he has ties all over the West Coast. At USC last season, he and his staff were able to land two of the highest rated recruits ever to come out of the state of Utah (Osa Masina and Porter Gustin). Having played at BYU, Sarkisian has ties to the state of Utah, and most importantly, he has ties to incoming Utah quarterback Troy Williams, having recruited him to Washington when Sark was the head coach there. Utah would be in a good situation for Sarkisian to help him rebuild his career without many of the pitfalls that caused his downfall at USC. Utah will have many new faces at quarterback and wide receiver next season, so Sarkisian and Holliday would have the ability to implement their schemes with all the new talent. Utah could certainly use those two moving forward.
Who do you want to see on Utah's staff next season?