LOGAN, Utah -
David Yost, who has 23 years of coaching experience, including four years as an offensive coordinator, was hired as Utah State's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.
Prior to his appointment at Utah State, Yost spent the 2016 season as the quarterback coach and passing game coordinator at Oregon. He also spent three seasons (2013-15) as the inside wide receiver coach at Washington State, and 12 years at Missouri, culminating with him serving as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
At Utah State, Yost inherits seven starters and 18 letterwinners returning on offense, including senior Kent Myers, a three-year starter at quarterback. Myers has played in 28 games during his USU career, with 25 starts, and ranks fourth all-time in school history in completion percentage (.605), sixth all-time in total offense (5,963 yards), tied for eighth all-time with 31 career touchdown passes, and ninth all-time in career passing yards (4,848), career completions (411) and career pass attempts (679). He has also rushed for 1,115 yards on 257 carries (4.4 ypc) during his career and ranks 25th all-time in school history in career rushing yards, including third all-time among quarterbacks.
Utah State also returns senior running backs LaJuan Hunt and Tonny Lindsey, Jr., who have rushed for 1,018 and 856 yards in their careers, respectively, and a pair of dynamic wide receivers in junior Ron'quavion Tarver and sophomore Rayshad Lewis. Tarver caught 46 passes for 602 yards (13.1 ypr) and three touchdowns last season, while Lewis had 40 receptions for 476 yards and two touchdowns, both of which rank second all-time in school history for a freshman. Tarver's 602 receiving yards are the most by an Aggie underclassman since 2009, while his 46 receptions are tied for the most by a USU underclassman in school history.
Other returning offensive starters for Utah State heading into the 2017 season include senior offensive lineman Preston Brooksby, junior offensive lineman KJ Uluave and junior wide receiver Zach Van Leeuwen.
Prior to Utah State entering its last week of spring camp, we sat down with Yost and discussed a number of topics, including the instillation of the new offense, his coaching philosophy and his hair.
How have the first few months on the job here at Utah State gone for you?
"It's been a lot of fun. I've been very energized and it's been fun to put an offense together, install it, and work with a new group of coaches and explain my philosophes and listen to their take on things. I got here in January and hit the road recruiting. February and the early part of March was getting the offense detailed and the way we wanted it and then we started spring ball at the end of February. So, it has been very fast."
What was it about this position and this program that intrigued you and ultimately led you to becoming an Aggie?
"I had met Coach (Matt) Wells a while back when he was an assistant at Tulsa and I was at Missouri. I had always seen Utah State from a distance and how it has gone the last few years with all the success they have had. Then with Coach Wells' thoughts and what he wants to be on offense very much mirrored what I wanted to put in as an offense, so I thought it would be a good fit. Me and my wife really liked the community and it's exciting for us. Getting the chance to put an offense together and doing it behind my philosophy was something I was ready to do again."
Did you have any other connections with the current staff at Utah State?
"Not really. I had met a couple of them out recruiting, but I didn't really know any of them personally. Since coach (Mark) Tommerdahl has come on staff, I knew him the most, and that was primarily from coaching against each other. It's been new and fresh for the current staff and for me to be around some different people."
Talk about the quarterbacks. You return a three-year starter in Kent Myers along with two other players who have at least one year in the program in Jordan Love and DJ Nelson.
"They have all jumped into how the offense works and their role within the offense. We ask a lot out of the quarterbacks, and you have to feel comfortable with those guys being the commanders and running the show, and distributing information to the rest of the offense. It's been different for them, but I think it's been fun for them, and they can see how much control they have, but also how much pressure comes with the position and how important what they do is. They've done a good job. Kent's put in a lot of film time and has been really good. Jordan is progressing through as a redshirt freshman quarterback and you see the ups and downs and the learning curve. And I think how we are doing things now gives DJ a good chance to use his strengths as a play-maker and his intelligence to get us in good plays and put us in possession to be successful and attack defenses to the best of our abilities."
How do you see the position change with Damion Hobbs from quarterback to tight end helping the offense?
"I think it's been a good move for him and really a good move for the offense, which will result in it being a good move for the team. With his athleticism, not being on the football field was not helping us. He's one of the more athletic guys on this football team, so we thought he might be able to help us on the field. He has probably exceeded our expectations for what a quarterback has done at the tight end position, and there is still a lot to be learned and worked on. But his knowledge and understanding of the offense, he has really picked it up. He's caught a bunch of tough passes in practice."
Talk about some of the other playmakers on offense and how you plan on utilizing them?
"Ron'quavion Tarver has had a really good spring. We've had days where he's been uncoverable and we've had days where we need to get him the ball more. We need to let him use his big size. He may not make a lot of guys miss, but he is still hard to tackle. Whatever we can do to get him the football in space, as much as we can, is the goal of the offense. Rayshad (Lewis) has done a really good job of recognizing defenses and putting himself in good situations. He really attacks his routes and causes a lot of coverage to come his way, which is positive for everyone else, not necessarily for him, and it opens up other guys. Neither one of those guys came here to block, but in our run game and our screen game, Rayshad blocks linebackers all the time and it's amazing how well he blocks in space. And Tarver has done the same thing with corners and safeties, and they unselfishly do it, and it's good for everybody to see. Then our tailbacks are learning how we want them to run the football and use them in space. (LaJuan) Hunt has jumped up and has done a nice job in how he's finishing runs. He's become a physical back for us and it has set the tone for everyone else to play more physical too."
With this being the last week of spring practice, has the offense progressed the way you wanted them to?
"I'd like to be farther along than what we are as far as execution and all that. And that's the design of the offense, it's become a high-level group of players out there working together and everything. We've showed spurts of being what we're capable of and where we want us to be, but it's not nearly to the consistency we want it to be. But that's also why you have spring football and that's also why we don't play games on May 1, we have all the way until September. So, we've got a lot of work to do but we have time to get it done, and I think the players are making the progress in the direction we want, it's just how fast can we get them there, it's just part of the push."
Talk about the changes made to the offense and what fans can expect to see on the field this fall?
"We've added some little wrinkles and we're trying to play with an up-tempo approach. We did that when I was at Missouri and then at Oregon. Also, we're trying to attack down the field with the throwing game. A lot of our drop back game is trying to get the ball down the field when we call those plays. We're trying to be real efficient in everything that we do from the run game to the quick game to our play-action stuff. A lot of the stuff is going to look similar to what they've seen in the past, we may do it out of a couple of different formations and we may try to do it a little bit faster, but we are just trying to get our guys to execute at a high level in the plays that we feel are best to attack a defense. We're making strides in that way and our players are getting a feel for that and understanding it and it just takes more and more reps."
When this offense is clicking the way you want it to, what types of yardage numbers or scoring numbers do you anticipate or expect?
"We want to be a high-volume team and get a lot of yards. We're trying to get as many plays as we can, which helps with opportunities to score, but also helps with putting up yards and putting pressure on the other team's defense, but also putting pressure on the other team's offense by putting points up on the board. We always want to score one more point than what the other offense scores. We want to be a team where we're scoring 50 percent of our drives or even pushing it up to 60 percent of our drives, which will put ourselves in position to be successful scoring. And then it's how good you get in the red zone in scoring touchdowns as opposed to field goals, and trying to be as explosive as we can with plays. We have goals that we shoot for and we want to be one of the tops in the country with explosive plays and to do that we need a bunch of guys executing, but we also have to get the playmakers the balls in space. Yards per game, I don't know if I've ever looked at that, we'd like to be in that mid six-to-seven yards per play type range, which is a high number and it's a lofty thing, but it's capable with the people we have, the personnel we have and how we're going to put things together. Then it's being as efficient as we can in all the situational things as far as red zone, third down, coming out packages, those types of things, and then protecting the football. The less times we give it away, the better chance we have of scoring, so that's always first and foremost."
In a perfect scenario, would you prefer to pass or run more? Or is it dictated on how the defense is playing?
"It's a little bit dictated on how the defense plays, but we want to be able to run the football. That's going to be a focus for us and that's always a goal. We want to be able to run the ball when we want to run it. And I've been involved in offenses before where that wasn't always the case, where we relied totally on what the defense was doing and we tried to take advantage of it that way, which I think is one approach. As I know with Coach Wells, he wanted to be able to run the football. With having two tight ends, like we do in our system with Dax (Raymond) coming back and (Damion) Hobbs moving into that position and then some of the young players that we're bringing along, it gives you a different aspect so you can dictate running the ball on our terms as opposed to their terms. We also want to spread the field. It is designed as spread offense and we're going to spread the field horizontally with our formations and make them spread out their defense as much as possible. If they don't, we're going to throw the ball out on the edge and get the ball to the perimeter in our screen game. But we want to run it when we want to run it, and that's a big part of it. I don't know if we're going to sit there and say we want to be 60-40 one way or the other, but on normal downs, we want the defense to want to stop the run because they know we want to run the football. And then third downs are going to be third down situational, and then red zone we want to do whatever it takes to put the ball in the end zone, whatever we're best at doing. We have some guys that we can really throw the ball to down in that area that really adds to that, but we can run the football between the tackles and score that way. It's as balanced as you can get, but every good offense has tendencies and we want to have tendencies. We want them to try and stop things that we do well, so then we can take advantage of it in another way."
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
"I try to keep it simple, I've always kind of went that way. After spending time with coach (Mike) Leach, it reemphasized and refocused that. I want to put our players in positions to be successful and let them get really good at things. The old philosophy is if you do six things a thousand times you get good at it, and if you do a thousand things six times you're not really good at anything. If you want to be good at a few things, you select what we are and that's what we're going to do over and over and over again, and get really good at that. I like being fast in everything we do. I want to play fast as far as tempo, but I also want to play fast as far as knowing what we're doing so our players aren't thinking, so when they see a signal or call from the quarterback or however we communicate it on a certain play, there's no this is what I'm doing on this play. And then attacking is a little bit of my personality. We talk about we want to attack or blitz the defense, we don't want them to blitz us kind of mentality. We always want to attack them the best we can, not take what they're giving us, but kind of force our will on them. And I'm a little bit more on the extreme side, so if we're going to do something, we're going to be the best at doing it. So, if we're going to throw a quick game, we're going to be the best at throwing a quick game. If we're going to run the football, we're going to be the best running, spread team there is. If we're going to throw the ball down the field, we're going to be the best at throwing the ball down the field. So, everything is kind of pushed to be the best in that group."
When you are not coaching football, what do you enjoy doing?
"There's a lot to do here in Cache Valley, and it's been really good. I have three young ones, a 10, an 8 and a soon-to-be 6-year-old, and that's everything. When I'm not here doing football, I'm there playing with them. It seems like a lot of the time we're coming up playing baseball, whether it's here in Maverik Stadium, or if it's not as good of weather, we're in the indoor facility playing tag on the big crash mats or playing soccer or kickball or baseball in there on the football ground. But my kids are very sports oriented, I don't know where they get that from, but sports are a big deal to them. They like sports and they like competing, so we try to do as much as possible. But spending time with the family is the most important thing."
Can you set the record straight on your hairstyle and how that came about?
"I've always liked long hair, I had long hair as kid. Probably one of the earliest memories I had was on the last day of school every year my dad would take me to the barber shop and we would shave it off, which my dad and mom thought was a good idea. So, the first chance that I got where I was old enough and they weren't going to do that, I let it grow. I've had a lot of odd, bad haircuts overtime as you look back at pictures, and I think we all have that, where we look back at some of the hair and the clothes and think, `What was I thinking?' I'm sure in 15, 20 years, I'll look back at this and think what was I thinking. But I like longer hair, I kind of started doing it 2003, 2004 at Missouri. I like long hair, so I was kind of doing it for that reason, but I also thought it would set me apart from coaches in the recruiting aspect. When you go to spring practices at high schools and you stand there on the sidelines with 15 other coaches, we all kind of look alike. And then it just comes down to the thing that's on your shirt. What I found is when you call a recruit up on the phone and you say, `Hey, I was at your practice today.' `Oh, okay coach.' `I'm the guy with the long, blonde hair.' `Oh, I remember you coach.' It kind of sets you apart, it's kind of a brand that way. I did and was like well, I have to keep it. I like having long hair, it's a lot easier for me, I don't really do much with it. I get it wet, shake it and go. So, there's no maintenance with it in that way. I like it and I think I can use it to help me in recruiting, so it's a plus."
Anything else you want to share with Utah State fans or what they need to know?
"I'm really excited. We have a really good culture showing up here in the players. We have an extremely hard working team and that's something Coach Wells and Coach (Dave) Scholz, all the staff here, has put into the players. They're here to get their degrees, but also football is a big deal, and they put in a lot of extra time and a lot of commitment to be good football players and everything, and it shows with how well they pick up things. We're making really good strides to be a really good football team. The defense has been really tough on us some days this spring, and I'd like to think that we've been tough on them some days, but I don't know if it's the same. The defense has been tough on us more than we've been tough on them. But things are going in the right direction. We just have to continue putting good days on top of good days and good plays on top of good plays and then you put good games together and then you have one of those good, special kind of seasons, but it takes every guy and everything. We have great support here, everywhere I go here in Cache Valley, you see Utah State everywhere. Moving in the neighborhood, they all know who I am and what I do just because Aggie football is a big deal to everybody in this area, so it's a real, real positive."
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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