One of the most influential coaches on BYU’s offensive staff is expected to become the next running back’s coach at Arizona.
According to Jason Sheer at 247 Sports, the Wildcats will hire AJ Steward to take over as the running backs coach under the direction of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and head coach Kevin Sumlin. 2020 will be a crucial season for Sulmin as he’s recorded two losing seasons in his first two years in Tucson.
AJ Steward was part of the offensive staff overhaul for BYU back in 2018 in which Jeff Grimes was brought on as offensive coordinator along with Stewart, Fesi Sitake and Aaron Roderick. Ryan Pugh was also hired in the same cycle as the offensive line coach but left after one season to become the offensive coordinator at Troy.
This will definitely be a big loss for BYU, particularly in the recruiting department. AJ was instrumental in bringing talent to Provo, specifically graduate transfers Ty’Son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa. Along with recruiting he helped develop a strong core of running backs in 2018 and 2019 that featured depth and received strong performances from top to bottom.
While he will be tough to replace, this should definitely be seen as a good sign that BYU has been able to identify quality coaching candidates. In a perfect world BYU would be able retain the best coaches that come through their program but it’s better that they get a few good seasons out of the best coaches rather then get long stints from those who might be more complacent.
In terms of a replacement, the obvious option would be promoting graduate assistant and former Cougar running back Harvey Unga. He’s been on the staff as a graduate assistant since 2016 and the last two years he was with the running backs. Don’t be surprised if BYU looks outside of the program to replace AJ, similar to what they did with the hire of Eric Mateos.
The Cougars could face off against Coach Steward in 2021 as the Cougars and Wildcats are set to play each other in Las Vegas on September 2nd.