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New coordinators bring unique twist to Aggie system

New coordinators bring unique twist to Aggie system

(Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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LOGAN — Utah State replaced both its offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason, and on paper, the Aggies landed what looks like two great hires in Josh Heupel and Kevin Clune, but will these new coordinators bring new systems with steep learning curves?

Utah State hired Heupel after he was let go by Oklahoma following an 8-5 campaign. He spent nine years as a coach at Oklahoma, including four as co-offensive coordinator. While Oklahoma had its struggles in 2014, the Sooners finish 20th nationally in points scored at 36 points per game. By comparison, Utah State scored 27 ppg (81st).

Heupel has run a fairly balanced attack in his four years running the Sooners offense. Combined, the Sooners averaged of 37 ppg, 202 rushing yards per game, 272 passing ypg, 475 ypg over the past four seasons. His Oklahoma offense looks like it will mesh well with the offense Utah State ran in recent years.

Even though the Sooners hail for the land of the power run game, they effectively used mobile quarterbacks under Heupel. Over the last two seasons Utah State and Oklahoma's offense had the same percentage of total runs from the quarterback position, 21 percent.

Both offenses had a run-first mentality and relied on big plays from wide receivers in the passing game. The main difference between the two offenses is that Oklahoma used its run game efficiently.

While Heupel, who played collegiately at Weber State for one year and Snow College for one season, and his system are new at Utah State, the other side of the ball has a familiar face and system in new defensive coordinator Clune.

During his last season at Utah State before heading to Hawaii, Clune helped coach an Aggie defense that allowed just 17 ppg, ranking first in the Mountain West Conference and seventh in the nation. That year, the Aggies also ranked first in the conference and 12th in the nation in total defense giving up only 331 ypg.

What Clune accomplished at Hawaii is more impressive. In his only year as Hawaii's defensive coordinator the defense gave up 27 ppg and 418.7 ypg, a massive improvement from 2013, when Hawaii allowed 39 ppg and 495 ypg.

After one year removed from Utah State, Clune comes back into a very familiar place with players he knows well. The defense will remain an aggressive 3-4 defense. The same style he helped coach at USU in 2013, and the same style he implemented at Hawaii. Any tweaks to the system will be easy to pick up with so much familiarity with players and staff.

Any learning curve on either side of the ball is one that should be worked out during fall camp. The real test for these new coordinators and their systems will come when the Aggies open the season against Southern Utah on Sept. 3.

Parker Robertson is an alum of Utah State University, a freelance contributor, and an avid fan of sports. Email:

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