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BYU Running Back Coach AJ Steward Hired By Arizona In Same Role

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and running backs coach AJ Steward react to a touchdown in the first half against the USF Bulls at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Robert W. Gover, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU running back coach AJ Steward is headed to the University of Arizona in the same position.

Steward was an assistant at BYU for the past two seasons and was part of the new hires when Jeff Grimes was hired to take over as offensive coordinator. One of the top recruiters on the staff, Steward was instrumental in landing graduate transfers Ty’Son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa to BYU this past season.

“We couldn’t be happier to be welcoming AJ to the Arizona Football Family,” Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “AJ brings a work ethic and experience that will impact the development of our student-athletes in a very positive way. His passion for the game, passion for making a difference and his recruiting background make him a great fit for our staff.”

Sources tell KSL Sports that Steward was in conversations with multiple Power 5 programs for vacant running back coach positions in the Pac-12 and Big 12 before landing at Arizona.

“My wife Virginia and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Tucson and make the University of Arizona our home,” Steward said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue my coaching career under someone like Coach Sumlin, and I can’t wait to get to work with our young men!”

When Steward stepped into his role at BYU, the Cougars were coming off a season in 2017 where they were 104th nationally in rush offense averaging 130.5 yards per game. In each of Steward’s two seasons, that yards per game total went up including 2019’s mark of 159.1 which was good for 68th nationally.

Who does BYU hire to replace Steward?

With Steward now headed to Arizona, head coach Kalani Sitake has an opening on his coaching staff as he heads into his fifth season at BYU. Sitake has hinted at assignment changes taking place within his staff in the past.

If Sitake, Aaron Roderick, and Grimes opt to hire another running backs coach, keep an eye on Montana State running backs coach Jimmy Beal who has close connections to Jernaro Gilford from their days in Los Angeles. Another option is former BYU running back Harvey Unga who has served as a graduate assistant in the program the past two seasons.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes in his previous stop at LSU was the running game coordinator with the Bayou Bengals as recently as 2017.

BYU spring practices begin on Monday, March 2nd.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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