Saturday, January 28, 2017

When Coaches Speak: Steve Johnson

(When Coaches Speak is a series of articles where active coaches will give their thoughts on their own teams, as well as current happenings in the game and offer thoughts on their peers, always in their own words.)

Johnson, center, with assistant coaches Nate Miller, left, and
Windy Thees, right.
Entering his fourth season at the helm of the Utah State Aggies, former Auburn assistant Steve Johnson has seen improvement in his club every year since his arrival prior to 2014.

 After a one-game improvement from 2014 to 2015 (18-37 to 19-36), Johnson's club posted a winning record last season, finishing the season at 26-25, one game over .500. Sarah Chow led the Aggies with a .376 batting average and Victoria Saucedo paced the club with twelve home runs and a .629 slugging percentage.

In talking about building off the success of his program's 2016 campaign, Johnson says the season proved that the culture-change he desires to implement is working well. "Achieving our first winning season in twenty years was a big step for us," he said. "Now we know how to compete and we have a culture where everyone works for each other and they know they can compete. Last year's senior class was instrumental in laying that foundation and now this year's senior class is building on that foundation, so we're all moving in one direction now."

The addition of former Memphis and Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees prior to last season helped make Johnson's staff one of the most formidable west of the Mississippi, and her pitching staff this season should be a hallmark of the Aggies' success this season. With a staff including three returners and a freshman who could lead the staff immediately, the circle is a position of depth.

In speaking on his 2017 club, Johnson describes his senior class as "strong" and says, "this is our deepest and most talented team since I've been here."

"We have depth at every position," he continues. "[That] leads to great competition for those starting roles. We also have a roster where all twenty players will be able to help us this year and see the field in some capacity, which is critical for us as coaches... Our goal is to compete for the Mountain West title and make the postseason... I feel we have all of the pieces in place to make that run and have a truly historic season."

Johnson signed a contract extension this summer, agreeing to stay in Logan at least through the 2021 season. It was a move, he says, spurned by his family's comfortability and love for the are, as well as the program's equal commitment to helping his program succeed: "The school has committed the resources for us to be successful, from budget to new facilities to future renovations on our field. Our recruiting efforts have this program poised for big things not only this year, but down the road. I'm excited about what we are building here and want to see it through. I greatly respect and admire what Coach Lotief has built over at Louisiana-Lafayette and would love to build this program into the ULL of the West Coast."

The Aggies kick off their season in a doubleheader against Pacific and North Dakota State in Fullerton, California on February 10th.

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