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Utah State hires Utah coordinator Andersen as coach

LOGAN, Utah -- Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen is leaving an unbeaten team to take over a program where wins have been scarce.

Andersen was introduced Thursday as the new coach at Utah State, leaving the BCS-bound Utes for a chance to turn around the downtrodden Aggies and restore them as a rival in a state that has been dominated by Utah and BYU.

"Why not us? Why not now? That's big to me," Andersen said.

Andersen planned to meet with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on Friday to decide whether he'll still have a role with the sixth-ranked Utes in their bowl game. Utah went 12-0 during the regular season and is awaiting a Bowl Championship Series bid Sunday.

Andersen said he hoped to be there when the Utes try to finish the season unbeaten, but his priority is his new job. Andersen planned to meet with the Aggies, evaluate what he is inheriting and what Utah State needs most during the recruiting stretch.

Andersen said all three schools have the same recruiting pool and he plans to bring more of the talent to Utah State, which hasn't had a winning season since 1996.

"We will go against whoever we've got to go against -- whether it's the other blue team or the other red team, I don't care. We're going to go head-to-head with them," Andersen said. "We're going to fight them right to the ground and away we go."

Andersen got several rounds of applause from Aggie boosters who packed the auditorium at Utah State's new complex built overlooking the north end zone at Romney Stadium.

"Once we get young men up here with their parents, this place will sell itself," Andersen said.

Andersen replaces Brent Guy, who was fired last month but allowed to finish the season. The Aggies were 3-9 this year and 9-38 during Guy's four-year tenure. The last coach to have a winning record at Utah State was John L. Smith, whose Aggies went 6-5 in 1996.

Smith was also a candidate to replace Guy, but Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said Andersen won the job when he was interviewed.

"He came in showing those leadership skills, a tireless fiery work ethic and a vision and a plan," Barnes said.

Utah State fans got a firsthand look at Andersen's defense in September, when Utah allowed just 116 yards of offense during the Utes' 58-10 win. Utah's defense is ranked No. 13 nationally in scoring defense, 14th in rushing defense and No. 18 in total defense.

Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel said he was impressed when he went against Utah's defense but more impressed when he and several other players met with Andersen last week.

"Everybody got excited," Borel said. "He's a good guy. He says a lot of good things and has good intentions for this team to work harder and do a lot of things better."

Andersen has been Whittingham's defensive coordinator since Whittingham was promoted to replace Urban Meyer in 2004. Andersen was also a Utes assistant from 1997 to 2002 before spending one season as coach at Southern Utah in 2003 and then returning to his alma mater as defensive line coach.

Andersen was named this week as one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach.