There was a slight drop-off in production for the 2022 Utah State Aggies as they went from reigning Mountain West Conference champions to sub .500 in a year. However, USU was still good enough to earn a bowl appearance. Now, the Aggies will turn to a 2023 staff with some new faces to pursue their second MWC title in three seasons.
Utah State Coaching Staff, 2023
Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, Blake Anderson
It’s season three for Anderson in Logan, Utah.
His first season witnessed immediate results: 11-3 overall, the program’s first-ever MWC title, and snatching the LA Bowl against Oregon State. Last season saw a 6-7 overall mark.
Anderson is no stranger to guiding mid-major programs. He helped build Arkansas State into back-to-back Sun Belt Conference champions in 2015 and 2016. He also produced six consecutive winning seasons with the Red Wolves. But the 11-win campaign of 2021 became his best season ever as a head coach.
Known as an innovative offensive mind, Anderson has run a system that was described in 2021 by the Salt Lake Tribune as moving at “breakneck” speed. However, the high-tempo offense was also installed during a time the Aggies had a future first-rounder named Jordan Love at quarterback in 2018.
Defensive Coordinator, Joe Cauthen
Cauthen is brand new to Logan and the MWC, but he’s no stranger to Anderson.
He was Anderson’s DC from 2014-2018 during a time when Arkansas State was winning conference titles. Cauthen comes over from Stephen F. Austin of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ranks, where he guided the SFA defense in the newly remodeled Western Athletic Conference—the conference that was once home to USU before moving to the MWC in 2013.
Nine SFA defenders earned All-WAC honors under Cauthen in 2022. His defense also produced 11 interceptions, eight fumbles, and scored two defensive touchdowns.
He’ll look to improve an Aggies defense that fell to next-to-last overall in the MWC. He has been a previous DC at Buffalo (2021) and the University of Houston (2019-2020). He’s bringing a four-man base front but will run between 4-5 defensive backs depending on the matchup.
Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach, Kyle Cefalo
After spending the last two seasons as the passing game coordinator, Cefalo will share OC duties with Anderson.
He’ll still oversee the Aggie wideouts. Last year’s unit witnessed Brian Cobbs (undrafted free agent to the Arizona Cardinals) catch 76 passes, plus saw junior college transfer Terrell Vaughn emerge with 56 receptions and score five touchdowns alongside Cobbs. Vaughn, formerly of Ventura College, is CFN’s No. 7 ranked MWC WR ahead of the 2023 season.
Cefalo additionally helped oversee the record-breaking 2021 offensive output, including shattering the school record of touchdown passes with 41 and seeing three different USU WRs score double-digit touchdowns.
Running Backs Coach, Rodney Freeman II
After serving as an offensive analyst for Michigan State last season, Freeman gets the RB group to himself. He already has to find a replacement for Calvin Tyler Jr., who led USU with 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns.
He’s no stranger to the Mountain Time zone, as he was originally lined up to be the OC at Colorado Mesa University before accepting his role in East Lansing. Utah State is his first MWC coaching opportunity.
Offensive Line Coach, Cooper Bassett
Bassett, like Freeman and Cauthen, is one of the newer members of the Aggies’ staff. Had he stayed with Sam Houston State, he would’ve been a part of the Bearkats’ jump from FCS to Conference USA.
His OL unit emerged as one of the best in the WAC at opening up the ground game (162.3 yards per game) and was the best at protecting the passer (18 sacks allowed, the fewest in the WAC). He’s a former Oklahoma State tight end and defensive lineman from 2009-2012.
Tight Ends Coach, DJ Tialavea
Back to veteran assistants, Tialavea is in season three working with the TEs at USU — also his alma mater. His guys are more used to zone blocking but have been flexed out wide in the Aggies’ fast-paced offense.
Tialavea additionally had four NFL stops with the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, and Jacksonville Jaguars during his playing career.
Defensive Line Coach, Tevita Finau
Finau is the second newcomer to the USU defense. And he comes over from the nearby University of Utah, where he was a grad assistant and, in 2022, the defensive administrative assistant for the Pac-12 champs.
The native of New Zealand was a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) second-team All-American at Phoenix College in 2007. Like Tialavea, he also had multiple NFL stops following his playing career, with his last two being the New York Jets and Houston Texans.
Linebackers Coach, Mike Zuckerman
Zuckerman goes from inside linebackers to having the entire unit for 2023. During his brief time with the ILBs, Justin Rice became an All-MWC performer during the Aggies’ run to the MWC title in ’21. Zuckerman also coached at Miami and Rutgers.
Secondary Coach, Mitchell White
White is another newcomer but comes with Cauthen via Stephen F. Austin. White oversaw the cornerbacks at SHS during its run to the No. 1 defense in the WAC. One of his players was All-WAC DB Bruce Harmon, who picked off two passes and broke up seven in the air.
Special Teams Coordinator, Nick Paremski
Paremski not only has overseen the ST unit but also coached the outside linebackers in his first season of 2021 under Anderson. He’s another past Arkansas State assistant under Anderson, where he held roles ranging from quality control assistant to interim defensive coordinator in 2020. He has also coached at Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M.
The rest of the Utah Staff are:
- Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Paul Jackson
- Assistant S&C Coach, Julian Whitehead
- Assistant S&C Coach, Thomas Gilson
- S&C Graduate Assistant, Andy Koch
- Senior Defensive Analyst, Ethan Morriss
- Defensive Graduate Assistant, BJ Edmonds
- Defensive Graduate Assistant, Derrick Nsubuga
- Offensive Graduate Assistant, Brandon Bowling
- Offensive Graduate Assistant Cob Summers
- Senior Defensive Analyst, Tim Burmeister
- Special Teams Quality Control, Bobby Dodd
- Offensive Assistant, Hayden Kingston