The 39-year old Wells, who is now the 11th-youngest head coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, replaces Gary Andersen who accepted the head coaching position at the University of Wisconsin. Dating back to 1919, Wells is just the second Utah State graduate to be appointed its head football coach joining Chris Pella who graduated from USU in 1965 and coached the Aggies from 1983-85.
“We crafted our Football Excellence Plan four years ago in part to attract and retain top level assistants. Individuals who, if called upon, could grow into excellent head coaching candidates. Matt Wells has become our succession plan,” said Barnes. “With resources generated through the Merlin Olsen Fund we were able to bring Matt to USU. Matt’s body of work as offensive coordinator has gained national attention and his significant contribution to our success over the past two years will be critical in providing continuity. Aggie football has gained national respect. Matt is simply the right leader at the right time to continue that progress.”
Wells, a former Aggie quarterback and three-year letterwinner from 1994-96, was a member of two conference championship teams as a student-athlete as he was a redshirt freshman in 1993 when Utah State tied for first in the Big West Conference and defeated Ball State, 42-33, in the Las Vegas Bowl for its first-ever bowl win. As a senior in 1996, Wells helped USU to another share of the Big West Conference title.
“I’m extremely honored and humbled to be the next head football coach at my alma mater,” said Wells. “This is a university that molded me as a student-athlete and I am fully invested and passionate about continuing the vision for this football program that was set before me. I would like to thank University President Stan Albrecht and Mr. Barnes for the trust, belief and vision they have in me to lead this program.”
Wells has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Utah State, including serving as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2012 campaign. In 2011, Wells coached USU’s quarterbacks and was the team’s recruiting coordinator.
“We will continue to strive for excellence on the field, in the classroom and community, and continue the blueprint for success that has been established over the last few years. Our goal will be to compete for Mountain West Conference Championships and bowl championships on a yearly basis with young men that represent Cache Valley and Aggie Nation with the utmost class,” Wells added.
Utah State just concluded its most successful season in school history in 2012 as it went 11-2 and set school records for wins (11) and home wins (6), while being nationally ranked in the Associated Press poll for three-straight weeks for the first time in school history. USU also won its first outright conference championship since 1936 during the 2012 campaign and just its third in school history joining the 1921 and 1936 teams that both won Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles. All-time, Utah State has won or shared 11 league championships.
During his two years at Utah State, Wells has been part of a Utah State team that went to back-to-back bowl games for just the third time in school history, while posting an 18-8 record. Furthermore, USU’s 41-15 win against Toledo in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was the school’s second-ever bowl victory.
As offensive coordinator this past season, Wells directed an Aggie offense that set single-season school records for total points (454), total offense (6,108), completions (285) and total yards per game (469.8), while ranking second in points per game (34.9) and total passing yards (3,445).
Nationally, Utah State’s 2012 offense ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference and 23rd in the country in total offense (469.8 ypg), second in the WAC and 18th in the nation in passing efficiency (153.21), second in the WAC and 25th in the nation in rushing offense (204.8 ypg), third in the WAC and 31st in the nation in sacks allowed (1.38 pg), third in the WAC and 33rd in the nation in scoring offense (34.9 ppg), and third in the WAC and 39th in the nation in passing offense (265.0 ypg).
Under Wells, Utah State finished the 2012 season scoring 38 or more points in each of its final seven games, bettering the previous school record of 38-plus points in three-straight games accomplished six times and most recently in 2000.
Utah State also finished the 2012 season winning its final seven games, which is tied for the fourth-longest active winning streak in the nation and tied for the third-longest winning streak in school history.
In 2012, Wells coached current Aggie sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton who earned first-team all-WAC honors after setting single-season school records for touchdown passes (27), passing yards (3,373), completion percentage (.676), completions (275) and total offense (3,992 yards). Keeton also earned WAC Offensive Player of the Week honors four times in 2012, which is a single-season school record.
As the quarterbacks coach in 2011, Wells helped Utah State's offense establish then-school records for total offense (5,945 yards), rushing yards (3,675), total points (437) and total touchdowns (60).
Under Wells’ tutelage during his first two seasons at Utah State, Keeton has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and currently ranks first in school history in career completion percentage (.656), fourth in career touchdown passes (38), seventh in career total offense (5,485 yards), and ninth in career passing yards (4,573) and completions (381).
In 2012, Utah State had eight offensive players earn first-team all-conference honors, while two others were named to the league’s second-team.
Utah State, who officially joins the Mountain West Conference on July 1, 2013, will return 16 starters (8-offense, 7-defense, 1-kicker) and 58 letterwinners from a group that has won 16 of its last 19 games.
Wells, who has been a part of six bowl teams and two conference championships during his coaching career, came to Utah State after two coaching stints at New Mexico, serving as the Lobos’ wide receivers and kickoff return unit coach in 2010 and its wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator from 2007 to 2008. In 2009, Wells served as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Louisville.
Prior to his first stint at New Mexico, Wells spent five years (2002-06) as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Tulsa and five years at the U.S. Naval Academy (1997-2001) as its quarterbacks coach, fullbacks coach and wide receivers coach, while also serving as the junior varsity head coach and offensive coordinator for three years.
Wells, a native of Sallisaw, Okla., received his bachelor's degree in business marketing from Utah State in 1996, graduating cum laude. He and his wife Jen have two daughters, Jadyn (10) and Ella (7), and one son Wyatt (4).