Who could Weber State football target to replace Jay Hill as head coach?
With the nine-season Weber State tenure of Jay Hill officially over, what’s next in Ogden?
Hill took over a program still reeling in 2014 from the hire and springtime departure of John L. Smith in 2012, with Jody Sears coaching WSU to a 4-19 record in two seasons.
After one season to get his feet set, Hill turned in a 66-29 mark over his final eight seasons.
He came to Weber State after 13 years on staff at the University of Utah, where he also played his final two college seasons, working under head coaches Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham and rubbing shoulders with scores of other experienced coaches.
Will Weber State hire someone with a similar profile as Hill had in 2014, go outside the box, or hire internally? And how much consideration should be given to if candidates might turn over an entire coaching staff or those who may be able to keep WSU’s current staff rolling along?
Here’s a look at a few early, potential candidates. To be clear, this list is informed by existing connections, potential fits or relevant experience, not by a sourced set of information about who Weber State is currently contacting in the early stages of the process. It does also not presume a degree of interest by said coaches.
Swan should be high, perhaps at the top, on any serious list of potential candidates to take over Weber State’s program.
The former Weber State player has spent his last four seasons (since 2019) coaching linebackers at the University of Utah under the tutelage of Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. At Utah, Swan has furthered a reputation as an ace recruiter and has coached several linebackers to high marks in the Pac-12 and nationally, most notably first-round NFL draft pick Devin Lloyd.
Before that, Swan was a 15-year assistant at Weber State where he had stints coaching safeties, linebackers, tight ends, was co-defensive coordinator and learned Hill’s special teams flair as special teams coordinator before his departure to Utah. It seemed possible, or perhaps likely, that Hill was ready to hand the defense over to Swan as coordinator before his departure to Utah in 2019.
Swan walked on to Weber State under head coach Jerry Graybeal and was a Big Sky All-Academic honoree three times. He became an all-Big Sky second-team player as a senior in 2003 with 109 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception. Then he went on to work under five head coaches at WSU: Graybeal, Ron McBride, Smith, Sears and Hill.
His depth and breadth of experience combine with his defensive nature to place Swan as a hire who could, in theory, step in and hold most or all of the current WSU staff together as it currently stands and take pride in being tabbed to take over his alma mater. Swan is a universally liked, respected coach.
After cutting his teeth for three seasons at Southern Utah, his alma mater, Sitake coached for four seasons at Weber State: two as a receivers coach, and his final two (2016-17) as offensive coordinator. His success as offensive coordinator would place him on a list of potential WSU head coaches. Not until the arrival of Mickey Mental this season has Weber State had an offense that felt like the 2017 team that balanced the elite play of WSU’s defense and special teams.
Sitake has coached receivers at BYU for five years since leaving WSU, including two as the passing game coordinator. He’s the kind of young, up-and-coming coach that might have the fervor and zeal to have success at the FCS level.
As an offense-first coach, an assumption might be that Sitake would implement his own system and offensive staff if he took the job, potentially resulting in substantial turnover on that side of the ball. Mickey Mental has just completed his first season as WSU’s offensive coordinator after Matt Hammer held the post for two seasons. So that might mean quarterback Bronson Barron, for example, would be coached by his third offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in four seasons.
WSU also has two three-star quarterbacks from California in Richie Munoz and Dylan Gutierrez, who each have several FBS offers, currently committed to the program. The staff is excited about those recruiting wins, and there’s at least some risk that might be reset if the offense sees wholesale changes.
If you think Sitake is the right guy, then that’s a call you might still make. It’s usually best to hire the right coach and let the rest fall where it may. But those things could be real, short-term ramifications that would need to be overcome. Sitake would still have connections to several on WSU’s current staff.
Myers has been Weber State’s associate head coach and offensive line coach for every year since Hill was hired in 2014, working side by side with Hill to help build WSU’s culture as the elder statesman of the staff. His coaching experience runs back to the early 1980s. If he has any desire to take on his first head coaching role at this point in his career, he should be in the conversation, though that would probably come with an understanding of the arrangement as a short-term proposition.
Myers is a Seattle native who has coached at Southern Illinois, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Boise State and Washington before spending one season, 2003, as associate head coach and offensive line coach at Utah. He then coached the offensive line at Arizona State and Louisville before landing at UNLV for three seasons, the last of which he was offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for the Rebels. That was his last stop before joining Hill in Ogden.
Myers is another candidate who theoretically keeps the boat stable.
Mental is the only current assistant coach on Weber State’s staff with head coaching experience. He came to Ogden for the 2022 season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The Ohio native and former Division III quarterback cut his coaching teeth at startup Division II Notre Dame College, working there for 13 years. He was offensive coordinator for the final five seasons (building one of the division’s best offenses) and head coach for the last two, posting a 16-2 record.
Though still with work to do, Weber State’s offense took a step forward this season in both rushing and passing efficiency and Mental seems to have the offense poised to take another big jump next season. He’s another candidate who could potentially keep WSU’s staff mostly intact.
Maile is a Utah State alum and Utah native with most of his experience coaching defensive line at Utah State in two stints, Vanderbilt, and for the last two seasons at Boise State. Maile is also currently Boise’s associate head coach and is another well-respected coach in circles around Utah.
Maile was co-defensive coordinator at Utah State from 2016-2020. He was interim head coach for the Aggies on two occasions: for a bowl win in 2018, and for the final three games of the 2020 season. After working as a graduate assistant for two years, he was hired full-time at USU in 2011 and coached defensive line until 2014, when he left to coach defensive line at Vanderbilt for two seasons. He then returned to Utah State from 2016-20 before losing his job upon Blake Anderson’s hire at USU, upon which he was hired at Boise State.
Maile is another potential first-time head coach with a defense-first background. He has adjacent, but less direct, connections to Weber State. It’s unclear what his potential hire might look like as far as staff changes and composition are concerned.
Howell is a Weber State alum, though he never played for the Wildcats and would be a wild-card candidate. An Ogden native, he played football at Snow College before his career was ended by injury. He began working as an assistant coach at Weber High School and his alma mater, Ben Lomond, while still at Weber State and became Ben Lomond’s head coach before beginning a nine-year stint at BYU.
That BYU stint (2007-15) began with an internship and a graduate assistant role. He later coached linebackers and defensive backs before taking over as defensive coordinator under Bronco Mendenhall for three seasons. Howell followed Mendenhall to Virginia and held the same roles for six seasons until Mendenhall stepped down after the 2021 season. He was hired by Vanderbilt and is now the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach there.
His status as an alum provides a connection but it seems unlikely his seven years as a Power 5 coordinator would make an FCS head coach job appealing at this point in his career.