Going Mental for football

Weber State offensive coordinator Mickey Mental taking photos for WSU.

The Dec. 3 football game in Bozeman, Montana, between Weber State University and Montana State University is a strange ending point. At the time, it was seen mostly as an ending point for a team with 10 wins after going 6–5 the year prior.

Linebacker Winston Reid, wide receiver Ty MacPherson and former head coach Jay Hill all came into the press room to address the media after their 33–25 season ending loss.

“It has been a great season,” MacPherson said during his final press conference as a Wildcat. “I mean the fact that we won 10 games and especially being a senior like that, that means a lot.”

After talking about how playing against two-quarterback systems affects defensive scheming, Hill added to MacPherson’s statement.

“The players are everything to me,” Hill said. “Just watching these guys grow up from knucklehead freshman to then grown men and out there battling and bleeding and fighting and clawing and digging. And the reality is these guys have been phenomenal leaders.”

The Dec. 3 game marked the end of a successful team’s season, the end of some remarkable Wildcat careers and now marks the final game Hill coached for Weber State.

On Dec. 7, it was announced that Hill’s nine-year tenure as head coach would come to an end. Taking a defensive coordinator position at Brigham Young University, Hill left the Wildcats as the winningest coach in the program’s history.

Hours after the news surrounding Hill broke, ESPN reporter Pete Thamel tweeted that Weber State offensive coordinator Mickey Mental had become the interim head coach. On Dec. 20, Mental officially became the new head coach of the Wildcats.

“The support by obviously the fan base and the alumni is second to none,” Mental said during his first press conference as head coach. “They love their football here.”

Formerly a head coach at Notre Dame College, Mental came to Ogden on Feb. 11, 2022.

“Coach Hill is the biggest reason why I came here to Weber State,” Mental said. “His vision and how his beliefs are, how to run a program, run a very good program and he’s about it for the right reasons. He’s old school like me. It’s about graduating and winning football games and changing a young man’s life.”

Mental’s offense played an intricate part in Weber State’s success last season. Characterized as a fast-paced, no-huddle shotgun offense, the Wildcats made it difficult for defenses to keep up.

On Sept. 10, Mental’s offense was shown off during Weber State’s matchup against Utah State University.

Winning 35–7, the Wildcats ended the game with 199 rushing yards, 202 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. After the game, Weber State’s then-quarterback Bronson Barron talked about Mental’s offensive scheme.

“Although we are going fast, it simplifies things for me,” Barron said. “I know that might sound crazy to say but it does. Just being able to get the ball out of my hands quick to playmakers to let them do their thing is huge.”

Led by Mental’s strategizing, Weber State ended the season with 5,203 yards of offense and 50 touchdowns, a step up from last year’s totals of 4,026 yards of offense and 36 touchdowns.

“At the end of the day, it’s about playing for each other,” Mental said. “It’s about the guys and not the coaches. It’s always about your players.”

Although it’s only been a month and a half since last season, this team has undergone major changes. Senior stars such as MacPherson, safety Desmond Williams, running back Josh Davis and tight end Justin Malone have graduated.

“Obviously, the experience of how many games they played is the hardest thing to take away from it,” Mental said. “But I believe the next man up philosophy. It’s just another opportunity for someone to step up their game and fulfill those roles.”

In addition to seniors, starting quarterback Bronson Barron transferred to Western Kentucky University and cornerback Eddie Heckard declared for the NFL draft. Quarterback Kylan Weisser initially entered the transfer portal but has since withdrawn his name to return to Weber State’s program.

“It was important to Ky to play his final years out and I respected [that],” Mental said. “He was great about it. We stayed in touch throughout the process and then obviously as it goes through, things change and circumstances change, so I’m grateful for him to be back.”

Despite losing some players, the Wildcats have made multiple additions to their roster this offseason. Weber State signed offensive linemen Trevor Beck and Will Way, running back Major Givens and quarterback Richie Munoz.

“We recruit a high character person,” Mental said. “They’re good students. They come from fantastic families. When you dive down deep, you know you’re getting a player that loves ball and then that is also wanting to compete at the highest level.”

Mental is the Wildcat’s 12th head coach in the program’s history. Focused on player success, Mental’s main goal during his tenure is to graduate all of the team’s seniors and to make playing for Weber State the best “four to five year experience” a player’s had in their life.

“Obviously, you want to win a lot of games, but you want to enjoy the process, and if you stand by the process and absorb the process and live up to the standard that good things happen,” Mental said.

Coach Mental’s Wildcats will debut on the road to face off against the University of Northern Iowa on Sept. 6.