BYU football: How difficult will it be to replace Jeff Grimes with Aaron Roderick?


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How difficult will it be for Aaron Roderick to replace Jeff Grimes as BYU’s offensive coordinator?

This is an intriguing question since BYU’s job was Grimes’ very first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and Roderick had already done it twice in Utah in various forms and had that title in Southern Utah.

To answer this question, you must first clarify what Grimes brought to Provo on his return trip in 2018. He had a lot of experience – everywhere from Boise State, Auburn, LSU and Power 5 meeting rooms to galore.

Grimes is a natural leader, a master teacher, a guy the players allow to hold them accountable for because they want to please him. He is considered to be one of the best offensive line coaches in college football, as he could make the big pigs dance in harmony most of the time.

Replacing Grimes will be very difficult due to the stripes he wore, his wit, knowledge base, and productivity. In his two stops at Provo, BYU’s offensive line was elevated to higher levels. It is not even debatable.

But how good was Grimes as a game guy? Not bad, but he had times when he was challenged. Becoming conservative with a 20-0 halftime lead in Utah in 2018 comes to mind. But the move followed Zach Wilson who threw a pick-6 at Julian Blackmon in the third quarter in a possible 35-27 loss.

I’m a guy from Grimes. He was articulate, funny, didn’t take himself too seriously, respected those he worked with, was a good bucket of quotes for us media types. He patiently described his thoughts, offensive plans, challenges and aspirations. He was a professional.

What you don’t want in a coach is a sulky, vindictive, overly sensitive, immature, selfish person who holds a grudge and despises others. There are plenty of them in the business. Grimes was just the opposite, in wins and losses. He knew the weight and significance of both and didn’t try to sell it any differently.

Roderick has a ton of momentum heading into 2021.

Grimes and Eric Mateos, the offensive line coach he hired at BYU and brought with him to Baylor, were not in the last game, a 49-23 victory over the University of Central Florida. It was the Roderick show. He pulled the strings.

That night, the offense amassed 655 yards on 214 rushing, 441 passers for an average of 8.97 yards per game against the Golden Knight’s defense.

When Grimes enlisted Roderick to help him as the passing game coordinator and QB coach in 2018, it was Roderick who made it his first duty to bring in Wilson from Corner Canyon, who had pledged to Boise State.

BYU assistants Aaron Roderick, left and Jeff Grimes, right, chat during the Bleu-Blanc match at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday April 7, 2018.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

In a sense, you could say Roderick was responsible for approaching, selling, and delivering BYU’s top NFL rookie. Wilson was in his QB room. He was at the forefront of reps for the passing games he helped design and implement. That says a lot. Because once he got Wilson in his room, he did.

Like Grimes, Roderick will have the ear and voice of other former coordinators in Steve Clark, Fesi Sitake and Darrell Funk. Together, Roderick’s attacking staff have 90 years of coaching experience.

Sitake, Weber State’s former offensive coordinator, is now his passing coordinator.

But more importantly, as Clark and others have painstakingly explained, Roderick’s offensive staff will continue the tradition established by Grimes that all voices are heard, egos are checked at the front door, and the opinion of each will be respected.

This is a rare thing in coaching circles as everyone is trying to climb the ranks, to make a name for themselves, to establish a brand and a reputation.

Roderick is known for getting along and listening. He is also extremely studious with his research and absorbability. He helped Grimes reduce BYU’s offensive identity to simple philosophies, settings, and trainings.

He’s still handling BYU stuff he learned as a Cougar receiver.

LaVell Edwards’ drive shaft is long and has been found to be very efficient. From Andy Reid to Mike Holmgren, Norm Chow and new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham to Kalani Sitake, the roots have been firmly rooted in the game.

Sarkisian offered Roderick a job in Washington before he was a head coach at USC and that was after he had just finished working with Nick Saban in Alabama.

Unlike Grimes, a college offensive lineman, Roderick was a catcher, sprinter, punt returner and what they call a “skillful” player during the Ricks College and BYU era.

He is smart, friendly, approachable and reliable.

There are some Utah fans who have criticized Roderick and his work as a coordinator there, the game calls, et cetera. And there might be something to that, since they’ve had so much to compare over the past decade.

But sometimes a coordinator is not as good as he is allowed to be. How long are the reins? What is the team’s philosophy? What are the offensive goals that match the defense? How does a head coach view the work of his coordinator?

As for Grimes and Roderick, their head coach at BYU, Sitake has been very clear. He wants the offensive to be aggressive. He wants him to take hits, to take risks, to play. He’ll take the heat, but that’s what he wants from Roderick.

This is part of the reason why brothers Samson and Puka Nacua joined them – that and some family health issues with a grandparent.

Admittedly, this 2021 season is a whole different kind of challenge. The schedule is much tougher. Roderick will be without three players drafted by NFL teams, including Wilson, tackle Brady Christensen and wide receiver Dax Milne.

But he has a 1,000-yard rusher in Tyler Allgeier, a 12 TD tight end hiding in Isaac Rex and veteran wide receivers Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney to compliment Nacua guns.

I’d bet he’ll inherit a better offensive identity in 2021 than the one he’s helped Grimes shape, tinker with, and tune in the past three years.

The offense that Grimes and Roderick presented to Wilson three years ago is not the same that Jaren Hall, et al, will see in 2021.

It will be fun to see how Roderick builds on the Bowl victory over Central Florida, a team that finished 6-4 in a league led by Cincinnati’s top 10 and just a few seasons away from an unbeaten campaign.

That week, that night, the last BYU game, it was all in Roderick’s hands.

And it looked pretty good.

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About Joyce Hill

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