JONESBORO — Strap in. Buckle up. Hold on tight.
JONESBORO — Strap in. Buckle up. Hold on tight.
Arkansas State will play football at breakneck speed. The Blake Anderson era is officially underway.
Known for high-scoring, fast-paced and record-setting offenses throughout his career, the 44-year-old Anderson was introduced as Arkansas State’s head football coach Thursday.
Anderson, who spent the last two seasons at North Carolina and the previous two at Southern Mississippi as offensive coordinator, helped mold each of those programs into high-powered offenses that produced yards in bundles and lit up scoreboards. Now he’ll return Arkansas State to a style similar to what previous coaches Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze implemented, except he plans to dial it up a notch faster.
"This is what we will be — number one, we will be fast," Anderson told a near-capacity crowd at a news conference inside the Convocation Center auditorium. "We will be one of the fastest-operating football teams in the country."
Eight days after former coach Bryan Harsin stepped down to take the Boise State job, the ASU search committee of athletic director Terry Mohajir, Systems President Chuck Welch and Chancellor Tim Hudson settled on Anderson. After some late-night negotiations with different candidates, the group offered Anderson the job early Wednesday.
"You cannot imagine how excited I am and my family are to be here, to be part of this Red Wolf nation and to be welcome," Anderson said Thursday. "It’s been amazing just real quickly how open everybody has been. I haven’t lost a game yet, so I know that can change real quickly. But I’ve been doing this for almost 22 years and this is a dream true."
On the first day the search began for a new coach last Thursday, Mohajir was researching candidates on the Internet when he came across different articles and videos of Anderson that peaked his interest.
As the search proceeded over the next week, the committee conducted four in-person interviews with whom Mohajir said were "some of the best coaches in the country."
When all was said and done, the committee felt like Anderson was the best candidate because of his background, experience and philosophy. Anderson met nearly all their criteria, including the desire to coach long-term at ASU and an ability to recruit the region.
Welch believes Anderson will continue the unprecedented success of three straight Sun Belt Conference titles the Red Wolves have enjoyed over the last three years.
"We said from the very beginning we were going to go out and find the absolute best football coach we could find that was a fit for this university and we were going to continue what has been happening over the past three years," Welch said. "We talked to a lot of top-notch coaches. We had literally calls from all over the country; the interest was unbelievable. The one thing that set Blake Anderson apart from the rest was his energy, his excitement level and the very obvious fact that he wanted to be the head coach at Arkansas State University."
Anderson, who was born in Jonesboro, had also been successful everywhere he’d been. before.
"I wanted somebody excited to be a Red Wolf, somebody who wants to be a Red Wolf," Hudson said. "We’ve got a new Red Wolf family here I’m sure. I also wanted somebody who appreciated what Jonesboro can mean for his family. … And, I also wanted somebody who can put up a lot of points on the board."
With Arkansas State undergoing its fourth coaching change in four years, the search committee made it a priority that stability be part of the package Anderson would agree to were he to become head coach. Each of the previous three coaches — Malzahn, Freeze and Harsin — left for high-dollar jobs at larger schools after just one season.
Included in Anderson’s five-year contract worth $700,000 annually and $3.5 million total were buyouts meant to ensure the new coach will be in place at least a few years. The buyout for the first two years is $3 million, then drops to $2 million for the next two years with a $1 million buyout in the final year of the deal.
Anderson said the large buyout played no role in his decision to accept the job. He said he wanted to be ASU’s head coach no matter what and that he does not plan on leaving anytime soon.
"I’m not here to leave," Anderson said. "I’m not going to make any false promises to anybody, but I’ve got a daughter that is a freshman that I want to get graduated from high school and I want her to quit moving around. I want to give these players that do all the work, I want to give them the best chance to build a program and have some continuity. If we do a great job and somebody comes calling, that’s part of college football, but the buyout doesn’t scare me."
Anderson said he has not decided whether he’ll remain with the Tar Heels for the next couple of weeks through their bowl game. North Carolina faces Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 28.