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SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah linebackers coach Justin Ena will join Gary Andersen at Utah State as the program’s newest defensive coordinator.
And while Andersen has been busy this week looking to hire a new staff, the news about Ena’s departure came from Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham Thursday. Following a bowl-game practice for the Utes, Whittingham told media that Ena was leaving the program to join Andersen.
Ena joined Utah in 2015 as the linebackers position coach, and later added special teams work with Whittingham as the team’s co-special teams coordinator. The Shelton, Washington native also coached at Southern Utah and Weber State, where he served as a linebacker coach and defensive coordinator, before accepting a job at Utah.
At Andersen’s introductory press conference Tuesday, he said he felt “very good and confident” about the defensive coordinator he had already identified.
“As soon as we got in this process,” Andersen said, speaking about the process to become the Aggies’ head coach, “I had an individual approach me and wants to do it. There are very few people right now who I would say I want you to do the defense.”
Ena is reportedly the third hire in Andersen’s second tenure at Utah State.
It was reported Wednesday that Andersen had hired former offensive line coach TJ Woods, who was coaching at Western Kentucky. Woods previously coached under Andersen at Utah State as a tight ends and special teams coach from 2009-10 and then on the offensive line from 2011-12. He later joined Andersen at Oregon State.
On Thursday, footballscoop.com reported that Andersen had also hired Jordan Hicks as the program’s strength coach. He’s currently with Utah in a similar strength and conditioning position. The university, however, has yet to officially confirm any of the assistant hires.
Andersen said he would take his time to hire his coaching staff after settling on his two coordinators quickly. He said he wanted his coordinators to “feel comfortable and be involved in the process with those other assistants.”
“That’s vital in this process,” Andersen added. “I’ve learned that as I’ve gone through time. We’ll have them ready to go when we get back.”
Andersen will not officially take over the reins as head coach until Jan. 7, as he plans to focus on the University of Utah’s matchup against Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 31.