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OGDEN — It didn’t take newly minted Weber State football coach Jay Hill very long to find a blueprint he wanted to emulate in trying to rebuild the Wildcats’ beleaguered football program.
Really, all it took was a three-hour drive down Interstate 15 to Cedar City. What Hill also found at Southern Utah were two successful FCS coordinators he was eager to work with, Steve Clark and Justin Ena.
And now, Weber State has laid the framework for the newest edition of its football program as Hill announced the hiring of Clark to be the team’s offensive coordinator and Ena to be the defensive coordinator, at the weekly Wildcat Club coaches’ luncheon in Ogden.
“I went down to Southern Utah, and I feel like I got their three best coaches on their staff,” said Hill, in reference to Clark, Ena and receivers coach Fesi Sitake. “That was important to me to get my coordinators in place, and to get the best coaches from our rival. They went 8-4 last year, and (Clark and Ena) are the main reason they went 8-4.”
Ena said Hill’s reputation as a respected recruiter carried over to recruiting the coaching pair to leave Cedar City and make the move to Ogden.
I went down to Southern Utah, and I feel like I got their three best coaches on their staff. That was important to me to get my coordinators in place, and to get the best coaches from our rival. They went 8-4 last year, and (Clark and Ena) are the main reason they went 8-4.
“Coach Hill called me up about three days ago, and said, ‘Hey, we’re excited about your future — we’d like to be a big part of it,’ ” said Ena, who was a roommate of Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake when the two played at BYU. “I’m excited to be here with him.”
During his introduction, Ena discussed how his defensive strategy, which is built around a 4-3 scheme, will help the players currently on the roster. Last year, Southern Utah had the best overall defense in the Big Sky, as the Thunderbirds earned an FCS playoff spot.
Ena said his coaching philosophy is built on equal parts discipline and love.
“You’ve got to coach with toughness, but you’ve got to love them, too,” he said. “You coach them hard, you love them hard, and they’ll (the players) give you everything you’ve got.”
While Ena was a player at BYU, Clark worked his way into football as an unpaid assistant at a variety of stops, including one at Utah, where he worked with Hill.
“I’ve known Jay since we started our careers together,” said Clark, who guided the Thunderbirds’ offense to school records in passing and total offense. “We stayed in touch through all these years, and we’ve spent a lot of time in cars, plane rides, sleeping on hotel floors, and we both kind of came up together.”
Hill said taking the two successful coordinators from Southern Utah will help the team win the recruiting battle with in-state players.
“We’ve got to supplement (the present roster) with a bunch of in-state guys,” he said. “I know how many good players have gone through this state, and quite frankly, right now they’re all down at Southern Utah because of these guys. We will change that.”
Hill also said he will use his extensive ties to the talent-rich Las Vegas area to supplement Beehive State talent.
“Nobody has had more success recruiting in Las Vegas in the last 10 years than I have,” said Hill, who coached Las Vegas-bred Stevenson Sylvester and DeVonte Christopher at Utah. “I think every guy I’ve taken out of Las Vegas has been an all-conference starter (for Utah). That will be a big emphasis of mine, and I’ve got ties and connections into that city that we can get new players.”
Again, Hill stressed the importance of quality citizenship as he tries to turn the Wildcats around from a record of 4-19 over the past two seasons under Jody Sears.
“We expect our players to go to class, we expect them to do well socially,” he said. “There’s going to be a bit of a culture shock to these players coming in. We’re going to do things right.”