Robert Anae and Garett Tujague have been observers at N.C. State’s bowl practices, watching but not coaching.
The two newcomers on Dave Doeren’s football staff also have another important duty: recruit.
Anae was hired to replace Tim Beck as offensive coordinator, leaving Syracuse, and Tujague left the Virginia staff to join the Pack and coach the offensive line. The two have worked together extensively, both at Brigham Young University and then Virginia, which should make for a smooth transition at NCSU.
The Wolfpack (8-4) faces Maryland (7-5) in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30 in Charlotte, and their first teaching and coaching sessions with the players on the field will come in spring practice.
“The future direction of the offense we’re not going to really get into until after the bowl game,” Anae said Tuesday. “For now my role, for myself and coach Tujague, is to recruit, retain and observe.”
The NCAA early signing day for football is Wednesday and coaching staffs around the country continue to grope with the transfer portal – who’s going, who’s coming and who’s staying.
Anae, 63, was greatly influenced at BYU by legendary coach LaVell Edwards, first as a player in the early 1980s. The Laie, Hawaii, native said he also learned a lot from a former BYU assistant coach who has an N.C. State tie: Norm Chow.
Chow left BYU to become offensive coordinator at NCSU in 2000 and was a member of Chuck Amato’s first Wolfpack staff. He helped mold and develop Philip Rivers, then a freshman quarterback getting his first taste of college football, in the one year Chow spent in Raleigh.
Anae, asked what influence Chow had on him, said: “How a practice plan is used in practice and then utilized in the course of a game. As a young coach, I sat next to him for a couple of years and observed that in real time.
“As a player he also developed the practice plan, so I experienced both sides of that coin with coach Edwards and coach Chow. I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t a student of the process of how they did it.”
Anae’s coaching stops along the way include Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), Boise State, UNLV, Texas Tech and Arizona along with BYU, Virginia and then this season at Syracuse. At Texas Tech, he was on Mike Leach’s staff – along with NCSU special assistant Ruffin McNeill – and is among the many who have mourned Leach’s sudden passing last week at age 61.
“Those were great years in Lubbock and a huge amount of condolence goes to the family,” Anae said. “All of the former players and coaches who have a bond with him are better because of it.”
While at Arizona, Anae coached with Tony Gibson, the Pack’s defensive coordinator – further proof of the perceived seven degrees of separation in college coaching. Gibson spoke highly of Anae before the Pack’s game this year at Syracuse and of the challenges of facing an Anae offense.
Anae did say he did not know Doeren very well, but that he had respect for the way Doeren ran his program and the way his teams competed. That was a big draw, along with Anae having family in the area — a son, Famika, is offensive line coach at Campbell.
As for his offensive philosophy, Anae made it sound simple enough: “Move the ball and score points as well as you possibly can with all you’ve got.”
The results have been there – for Anae and Tujague. Coaching with Bronco Mendenall at BYU and then making the move to Virginia and the ACC, they developed teams that could move the ball and score points pretty well.
Anae’s offenses at BYU produced the school’s three leading career rushers – Jamaal Williams, Harvey Unga and Curtis Brown – and the program’s best wide receiver in Austin Collie. In 2021, Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong, a player now in the transfer portal, set a school single-season record for touchdown passes (31), passing yards (4,449) and total offense (4,700).
When Mendenall decided to give up coaching after the 2021 season, Anae left for Syracuse. Tujague, a former BYU offensive lineman, decided to remain with the Cavaliers this past season but has rejoined Anae.
“I had turned down four different job opportunities prior to this one and there were easy reasons to stay in Charlottesville,” Tujague said Tuesday. “But when coach Doeren came knocking it was really easy. I’ve been watching their program for four or five years and how they’ve done things, and when you played N.C. State you knew you played them. So it was a no-brainer.”