LOGAN, Utah -
Mark Tommerdahl, who has 33 years of coaching experience, including 22 years as a special teams coordinator, was hired as Utah State's special teams coordinator and running backs coach on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.
Prior to Utah State, Tommerdahl spent the last four seasons at California as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, and also coached tight ends, fullbacks and receivers.
At Utah State, Tommerdahl inherits senior running backs Tonny Lindsey, Jr. and LaJuan Hunt, as well as junior running back Justen Hervey. The trio rushed for a combined 1,016 yards on 202 carries last season. Along with those three, Tommerdahl will have four other running backs in redshirt freshmen Morian Walker, Jr. and Dionte Simon, along with freshmen Noah Tripp and SJ Fehoko.
On special teams, Utah State returns two punters in junior Aaron Dalton and sophomore Zach Lee. USU also has four placekickers on the current roster in returning sophomore Dominik Eberle, as well as freshmen Ryan Miller, Michael Smith and Jonathan Hagee. Dalton has punted 134 times for 5,322 yards in 15 games as an Aggie, and Eberle has appeared in four games, going 3-of-5 on field goal attempts and kicked off one time.
Prior to Utah State entering its last week of spring camp, we sat down with Tommerdahl and discussed a number of topics, including his history with some current USU coaches, his roles with the Aggie offense and special teams, and his thoughts on the new offense.
How have the first few months on the job here at Utah State gone for you?
"I came in just prior to spring ball. David Yost, the offensive coordinator, had been here about six weeks prior to that. He had just begun the process of putting in this offense, so I kind of came in on the back end of that in director phase and it's been a lot of fun."
What was it about this position and this program that intrigued you and ultimately led you to becoming an Aggie?
"I'm actually quite familiar with the program. I'm familiar with a couple guys on the staff. My wife and I have lived in this part of the country before and we have family in Park City. So, there was a lot of familiarity and comfort with this move."
Talk about working with this staff and what connections you may have had with any of them prior to Utah State.
"It's funny, coach Yost and I really don't have that much of a connection other than personally. We started talking when I was considering this job, but we figured that we had coached against each other for 15 years. We were not friends, but we've been rivals for a long time. Then, two members of the offensive staff and I have worked together before: Steve Farmer and Luke Wells, and I spent a short time together, we worked together for a season at a previous stop. Kendrick Shaver was employed by one of my best friends in coaching for five years. Then, Matt Wells and I were more professional acquaintances than friends, but we have a couple of really strong mutual friends in this business."
You coached against Utah State when you were at Louisiana Tech and New Mexico. Any memories from those games? Obviously, the 2012 game in Ruston was a high-profile game.
"I get that a lot around here. I have a lot of miles on me and to pick out one game from 2012, you'll have to excuse me, they just kind of run together. But Utah State has always had a reputation of really being what they are and knowing what they are. This is a blue-collar place and Utah State is known for blue-collar, hard-nosed football, and that reputation hasn't changed."
Utah State has made a significant push forward with facilities over the past 10 years. How impressed are you by USU's football facilities?
"That's really the first thing you notice when you come in here. Again, I've been around as good of facilities as there are in college football, and this place doesn't have to take a backseat to anybody. You look at the new press box and just the way this place presents itself when you drive in, there's a lot of eye appeal. Then, just part of the culture here, part of the culture that Matt has instilled, this place is ridiculously clean. It is impeccably maintained. That's one thing that jumps out. I think at the time this was built -- some of it is just 10 years old, correct? -- Some of this was really ahead of its time. And, just the fact that it has been so meticulously maintained, it can go to a lot of programs right now."
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
"That's a bit of a touchy-feely question. I know people like to talk about themselves, but I've been doing this for a long time and really my motives in doing this are pretty simple. I coach to influence young men. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning and, frankly, that's the whole reason I'm doing this because I think I can make a difference in the life of somebody. I don't think that's my coaching philosophy, but that's why I do what I do. And this is a great game. I think this game teaches you lifelong lessons every day, so I enjoy going to work each day."
Utah State returns a lot of production at running back. What have you seen and liked from the running backs and offense thus far this spring?
"I like the way that the running backs compete and get along, so it's healthy competition. They are fighting on a daily basis for their job. We have had three different tailbacks run with the first unit so far in spring ball, and that won't change. I will be telling you the same thing in October. These guys compete for their jobs every day, as we all do. To have that type of competition and still have that room, if you will, get along and help each other, that's a healthy, healthy part."
What can Aggie fans expect from the running backs and offense come game time next fall?
"This is a fun offense. You'll see it. When this offense clicks, and it may not click overnight, but when it clicks, you'll know it, everybody'll know it. We've talked about it before, but in this offense, there's enough for everybody, there's always some place to go. This is true, it's a statistical fact. We may have a game where a receiver catches 18 balls. The next game, that receiver may catch one and the running back is going to get 25 carries. It's just the way it works. If you play on offense here at Utah State, you're going to have a smile on your face."
Along with being the running backs coach, you are also the special teams coordinator. Talk about what those groups are working on this spring and what you hope to see from them this fall.
"First of all, to speak about the history of special teams here, there's been a really good foundation laid. There's been a couple real stalwart special team coaches here in the past. Dave Ungerer has a lot of miles on him, he's been a comrade of mine for probably 20 years now, and he did a great job when he was here. Stacy Collins came in last year as the special teams coordinator and carried on that tradition. There's been a really good foundation laid, so it's our job to take that foundation and build upon it. What we're working on this spring, there's some nuances, a few new schemes, but we're really just trying to become fundamentally sound."
When you are not coaching football, what do you enjoy doing?
"I enjoy life a lot. My wife and I have a great dog that we're grateful for and we're outdoors people. We're coming from the Bay Area, we loved the Bay Area and got to the beach a lot. My wife was here on a visit for six hours and we went to Bear Lake. There's beautiful scenery around here, a tremendous mountain setting, so we enjoy the outdoors. And we are huge, huge music fans. So, it keeps us human."
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
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