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Coaches With BYU Football Ties Who Landed New Jobs During Carousel

Jan 26, 2022, 1:08 PM
BYU Football - Kelly Poppinga...
Former Outside linebackers and special teams coach Kelly Poppinga as BYU opens their first day of football camp Aug. 8, 2015, in Provo. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – During the wild and crazy college coaching carousel, many coaches with ties to BYU football made changes.

A big reason for that was the sudden and surprising announcement by former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall to step down from the Virginia headman post. Mendenhall had many former BYU players and assistants on his staff in Charlottesville, leaving them needing to network and find new jobs.

Coaching Carousel moves impacting coaches with BYU football ties

Here’s a roundup of individuals connected to BYU football (player or coach) that made changes this off-season in the carousel.

Robert Anae, Syracuse Offensive Coordinator

After 15 seasons as an offensive play-caller on Mendenhall’s staff, Anae landed another Power 5 offensive coordinator position. Syracuse hired Anae to be the offensive coordinator on Dino Babers’ staff.

Babers is a former Hawaii football player; the home state Anae was born and raised.

Anae is coming off of a year where Virginia’s offense was No. 3 nationally in total offense (515.8) and No. 2 in passing offense (392.6 yards).

Mark Atuaia, Washington State Running Backs

Former BYU RB and coach Mark Atuaia joined Jake Dickert’s staff on the Palouse. Atuaia has been in college coaching since 2013. He will have the task of finding Washington State a replacement for Max Borghi.

Jason Beck, Syracuse Quarterbacks

Beck joins Anae on the Syracuse coaching staff. The former BYU quarterback and QB coach has put together an impressive string of star signal-callers dating back to his time in Provo. Since becoming the QB coach at BYU in 2013, his QBs have included Taysom Hill, Tanner Mangum, Kurt Benkert, Bryce Perkins, and Brennan Armstrong. Three of those five are in the NFL right now. Armstrong announced he would be returning to Virginia for one more year, and he will be viewed as the top QB in the ACC in 2022 at Virginia.

Beck could be a name to watch next year for P5 coordinator jobs if he continues on this trajectory of developing playmaking quarterbacks.

Brian Billick, Arizona State Offensive Analyst

One of the more interesting moves in the coaching carousel saw a former BYU tight end and grad assistant join Herm Edwards’ staff at Arizona State. Former Super Bowl Champion head coach Brian Billick will be an advisor to ASU head coach Herm Edwards in Tempe.

Billick is the third former NFL head coach to join ASU’s staff. The others are Edwards and Marvin Lewis.

Billick was a former All-WAC tight end at BYU from 1974 to 1976. After his playing days were over, Billick began his coaching career at BYU as a graduate assistant on LaVell Edwards’ staff.

Nick Howell, Vanderbilt Defensive Backs

Former BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell joined Clark Lea’s staff at Vanderbilt. Howell will be part of a staff in Nashville that looks to get the Commodores back to a bowl game for the first time since 2018.

Shaun Nua, USC Defensive Line

Nua, a former BYU defensive lineman, began his coaching career in 2009 as a defensive intern at BYU. Now he’s one of the top defensive line coaches in the country. Nua left Michigan where he had potential No. 1 NFL draft pick, Aidan Hutchinson, to join Lincoln Riley’s staff at USC.

Kelly Poppinga, Boise State Co-Special Teams Coordinator

Poppinga was a mainstay on Mendenhall’s staff at BYU and Virginia. Now he returns to the intermountain west, where he will be the Co-Defensive Coordinator and edge coach at Boise State. Poppinga was one of the top recruiters on BYU’s staff when he was a linebacker coach in Provo. He was vital in BYU landing current NFL star Fred Warner.

Ryan Pugh, Abilene Christian Offensive Line

Ryan Pugh was the BYU offensive line coach for one season in 2018 under Jeff Grimes. Pugh was at HBCU Southern University in 2021 before being hired at Abilene Christian this off-season. Abilene Christian is part of the newly formed Western Athletic Conference at the FCS level.

Dennis Simmons, USC Assistant Head Coach

Former BYU linebacker and KSL Sports correspondent (thanks for the coverage at the 1997 Cotton Bowl, coach) Dennis Simmons continues to rise in the coaching ranks. When Lincoln Riley accepted the head coach position at USC, Simmons was one of his first calls to join him. Simmons will be the assistant head coach, outside wide receivers, and co-offensive passing game coordinator for the Trojans.

Vic So’oto, Colorado Defensive Line

Bronco Mendenhall’s first commit as head coach of the BYU football program in 2005 has carved out a solid coaching resume that helped him land another job at Colorado. So’oto was on Clay Helton’s staff at USC the past two seasons, but after Lincoln Riley brought in his staff, So’oto landed at another Pac-12 South spot in Colorado, working for Buffs coach Karl Dorrell.

So’oto began his coaching career in 2015 as an intern at BYU. After that, he became a Graduate Assistant at Virginia, then a defensive line coach for the Hoos, and later in the same role at USC.

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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper. 

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Coaches With BYU Football Ties Who Landed New Jobs During Carousel