BYU football: How tough will it be replacing Jeff Grimes with Aaron Roderick?
How difficult will it be for Aaron Roderick to replace Jeff Grimes as BYU’s offensive coordinator?
It’s a fascinating question as the BYU job was Grimes’ very first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and Roderick had done it twice in Utah in various forms and had that title in southern Utah.
In order to decipher this question, one would first have to clarify what Grimes brought to Provo on his return trip in 2018. He had a lot of experience – everywhere from Boise State, Auburn, LSU and Power 5 meeting rooms galore.
Grimes is a natural leader, a master teacher, the type that players hold accountable for wanting to please him. He is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in college football because he was able to get the big pigs to dance in harmony most of the time.
Replacing Grimes will be very difficult due to the stripes he wore, his wit, knowledge base, and productivity. In his two stations in Provo, BYU’s offensive line was raised to a higher level. That is not even to be denied.
But how good was Grimes as a play-call guy? Not bad, but he had a few moments when he was challenged. Going conservative with a 20-0 halftime lead in Utah in 2018 comes to mind. But that decision came after Zach Wilson threw a pick-6 against Julian Blackmon in the third quarter and eventually lost 35:27.
I’m the grimes guy. He was eloquent, funny, didn’t take himself too seriously, respected the people he worked with, was a cute bucket of quotes for us media types. He patiently described his thoughts, offensive plans, challenges, and aspirations. He was a professional.
What you don’t want in a coaching personality is a pouting, vengeful, over-sensitive, immature, selfish person who holds grudges and looks down on others. There are many of them in their job. Grimes was just the opposite, in wins and losses. He knew the weight and importance of both and didn’t try to sell it any other way.
Roderick has a lot of momentum going into 2021.
Grimes and Eric Mateos, the offensive line coach he hired at BYU and took with him to Baylor, were absent from the last game, a 49:23 bowl win over the University of Central Florida. It was the Roderick show. He pulled the strings.
That night, the offense amassed 655 yards at 214 rushings, 441 passes for an average of 8.97 yards per game against the Golden Knight defense.
When Grimes reached out to Roderick as his passing coordinator and QB coach in 2018, it was Roderick who made it his first duty to bring in Wilson of Corner Canyon, who had signed up in Boise State.
BYU assistants Aaron Roderick (left) and Jeff Grimes (right) advise during the blue-and-white game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, April 7th, 2018. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
In a way, it could be said that Roderick was responsible for bringing in, selling, and delivering BYU’s highest NFL draft. Wilson was in his QB room. He has been at the forefront of running replays for passing games, which he helped develop and implement. That says a lot. Because as soon as he got Wilson in his room, he made it.
Like Grimes, Roderick will have the ear and voice of other former coordinators in Steve Clark, Fesi Sitake, and Darrell Funk. Together, Roderick’s offensive team has over 90 years of coaching experience.
Sitake, the former Weber State offensive coordinator, is now his passing coordinator.
But more importantly, as Clark and others have meticulously explained, Roderick’s offensive staff will continue the Grimes tradition of having all voices heard, egos checked at the front door, and each individual’s opinion being respected.
This is rare in coaching circles because everyone is trying to climb a ladder, make a name for themselves, establish a brand and a reputation.
Roderick is known for getting along and listening to each other. He is also very diligent with his research and his receptivity. He helped Grimes reduce BYU’s offensive identity to a few simple philosophies, sets, and formations.
He’s still doing some BYU stuff he learned as a Cougar recipient.
LaVell Edwards’ coaching tree is long and has proven to be very effective. From Andy Reid to Mike Holmgren, Norm Chow and the new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, and Kyle Whittingham of Utah to Kalani Sitake, the roots have firmly established themselves in the game.
Sarkisian offered Roderick a job in Washington before becoming head coach at USC, which was after he had just finished working with Nick Saban in Alabama.
In contrast to Grimes, a college offensive lineman, Roderick was a receiver, sprinter, punt returner and a so-called “skill” player during his time at Ricks College and BYU.
He is intelligent, personable, approachable and reliable.
There are some Utah fans who are critical of Roderick and his work as a coordinator there, game calls, etc. And there may be something about it, since they’ve been able to compare so many over the past decade.
But sometimes a coordinator is only as good as he is allowed to be. How long are the reins? What is the team’s philosophy? What are the offensive goals that go with the defense? How does a head coach see the work of his coordinator?
As for Grimes and Roderick, their head coach at BYU, Sitake has made it perfectly clear. He wants the offensive to be aggressive. He wants it to shoot, take risks, gamble. He’s taking the heat, but that’s what he wants Roderick to do.
That is one of the reasons the brothers Samson and Puka Nacua got together – that and some health problems of the family with a grandparent.
Granted, this 2021 season is a whole different kind of challenge. The schedule is much stricter. Roderick will forego three players drafted by NFL teams, including Wilson, tackle Brady Christensen and recipient Dax Milne.
But he has a 1,000 yard rusher in Tyler Allgeier, a 12 TD caching tight end in Isaac Rex, and seasoned receivers Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney to add to the Nacua guns.
I bet he’ll inherit a better offensive identity in 2021 than the one he’s helped Grimes tinker with and come to terms with over the past three years.
The offensive that Grimes and Roderick Wilson presented three years ago is not the same as that presented by Jaren Hall et al. will see in 2021.
It’ll be fun to see Roderick build on the Bowl win against Central Florida, a team that ended 4-4 in a top-10 Cincinnati-led league with just a few seasons of undefeated campaign.
That week, that night, the last BYU game, everything was in the hands of Roderick.
And it looked pretty good.