Weber State football hires offensive coordinator Mickey Mental to ‘let it rip’
Jay Hill completed Weber State football’s signing class on Feb. 2 without an offensive coordinator in place.
“Our offensive coordinator’s got to understand what it takes to win, first and foremost,” Hill said that day as the head coach sought to hire a new coordinator and quarterbacks coach following Matt Hammer’s departure.
Friday, after Weber State made official the hire of sitting Division II head coach Mickey Mental, Hill explained exactly what he wants to see on offense.
“We need something more offensively to complement what we’ve been on defense and special teams — aggressive, get after it, if you make a mistake, let it rip and someone else will cover for you — I just don’t think we’ve been that way,” the ninth-year head coach told the Standard-Examiner. “We’ve been a little conservative. We need to let it rip a little more and I think Mickey will do that.
“I wanted someone who fit the philosophy of what I most wanted on offense. I still don’t feel like, over the last eight years, that we’ve been 100% what I thought we could be … his philosophies lead me to believe that it’s more along the lines of what I envision us being.”
Mental helped paint that picture when reached by phone Friday in Ohio, where he’s preparing to move to Ogden as soon as possible after leaving Notre Dame College (South Euclid, Ohio), where he worked seven seasons as offensive coordinator and the final two as head coach, going 16-2.
A brief survey of film from a Notre Dame College playoff game last season saw his Falcons line up in shotgun pistol, with various receiver and tight end counts, using a downhill, power run game and a spread-out passing attack while often playing without huddles and snowballing big gains on top of each other.
“Yeah, that’s us to a T,” Mental said. “Our offense is going to be balanced, trying to be as 50-50 as possible. We will be physical and run the football, but … it’s numbers in space for me. I want to utilize all 53 yards across the field and put us in good situations to run the ball against clean boxes and take advantage of it passing when the box doesn’t present clean.”
Mental said he uses a variety of tempos to keep defenses off-balance and likes the simplicity that going no-huddle can give an offense.
That talk is supported by his work at Notre Dame College. The Falcons scored 42.5 points per game over the last three seasons, averaging 457 yards while committing 1.3 turnovers per game.
In the fall of 2021, they averaged 200 rushing yards and 251 passing per game; in the spring of 2021, they averaged 300 rushing yards and 193 passing per game. NDC won its conference in each of the last four seasons and tallied 51 or more points seven times in 15 conference games over the last two seasons.
Hill said he sees a lot of himself and what he does defensively in Mental and how Mental coaches offense. It was important that he find an offensive coordinator who will coach offense in a way that fits into the full-team picture of winning football games, Hill said.
Mental, who was recently named to the American Football Coaches Association’s top 35 under 35 coaches list, said initial interest in Weber State was obvious: a perennially ranked team that wins games. But learning more was what hooked him to the idea of wanting the job and going “two feet all the way in,” he says.
“Basically, it was about Jay and his staff,” Mental said. “It’s about people. If you’re surrounded by good people, good things are going to happen and you’re going to have a good experience … Jay is a special person, a good person, and we believe in the same things. It’s about graduating our players and winning games.”
For Hill, it wasn’t just about finding a fit.
“I also wanted to hire someone who can help take our culture to the next level. We’re always striving to get better.” Hill said. “I’ve got five guys who could all call plays and all be offensive coordinator. That’s where Mickey’s big, where he’s been a head coach and can manage four really top-notch assistant coaches on that side of the ball … I think we just added a piece to where we can jell it and let those guys all have some ownership, and really take this thing to a great level.”
Mental is a former Division III quarterback at Baldwin Wallace University in the greater Cleveland area. His main rival there was D3 power Mount Union outside of Akron — a team that wears purple.
“I never thought I’d wear purple before. I’ve got some buddies who laughed when they saw I’d be wearing purple,” he said.
He was invited to throw at a Cleveland Browns tryout after graduating — “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” — then coached quarterbacks at a local high school for one season before joining the staff at Notre Dame College as a graduate assistant in the first year the school launched the program. He eventually became receivers coach, then offensive coordinator, then head coach.
That experience of helping start a new program was all about connecting, which Mental says will be his job while installing his offense at Weber State.
“How do I connect with the players and how do I get them to buy into what we’re trying to do offensively? When you start a program that has no identity, you’ve got to create your own identity,” he said. “For us, it’s about being fast, about being physical, and it’s about taking care of the ball.”
Mental, an Ohio man through and through, had no previous connections to Hill or Weber State. But very soon — spring camp opens March 15 — Mental will leave the Midwest plains for Utah’s snowcapped mountains.
“I’m hoping he brings some fresh perspective,” Hill said. “It’s no different than when everyone wondered why the heck Utah hired Urban Meyer out of Bowling Green. Sometimes going outside the box a little bit, and trying to really find the best guy for the job, is exactly what we need in college football.
“Sometimes going outside the box a little bit is where you can find the best ones.”