Mike Sanford has been named the head football coach at Indiana State replacing Trent Miles, who left the Sycamores to take over the Georgia State program.
“He is a tremendous football coach and an even better person to lead our young men in our football program,” Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman said about Sanford. “His experience, his work ethic, his commitment to education, family and faith are all qualities that will help to shape the future of our program for years to come.”
Sanford is considered one of the nation’s top offensive minds and comes to Indiana State from Utah State, where he spent the 2012 season as the assistant head coach, running backs and tight ends coach on Gary Andersen’s staff.
“I am extremely excited and passionate about becoming the new head coach of the Sycamore football program,” Sanford said. “I look forward to continuing and building upon what this team accomplished over the past three seasons.”
Utah State won its second-ever bowl game in 2012 as it defeated Toledo, 41-15, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Utah State had one of its best overall seasons in school history with a 11-2 record, set the single-season school record with 10 wins, including a school record six at home. Utah State appeared in the Associated Press Poll for three consecutive weeks for the first time in school history as well as the ESPN/USA Coaches Poll’ and BCS standings for the first time ever.
Under Sanford’s tutelage, Utah State senior running back Kerwynn Williams led the team with 1,277 rushing yards on 200 carries with 12 touchdowns and also led the team with 43 catches for 663 yards and five TDs. The Aggie offense averaged 44.8 points and 502 yards of total offense per game during the final six contests of the year, including senior tight end Kellen Bartlett, who had 18 receptions for 111 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’m really happy for Mike. He wants to be a head football coach again and it’s hard to get those jobs,” said fourth-year USU head coach Gary Andersen. “I know it’s hard for him to leave Utah State University, but he feels like this is a great opportunity and he has made a decision that he thinks betters himself and his family. I’m very supportive of it and I wish him and his family all the best.”
Sanford spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons at Utah as offensive coordinator under head coach Urban Meyer and was part of the Utes’ 21-2 overall and 13-1 Mountain West two-year stretch, including a 12-0 overall and 7-0 league mark and victory in the 2004 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Sanford led Utah to the No. 3 ranking in the nation at 43.3 points per game, third in total offense, third in passing efficiency and boasted Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith, who went on to become the top pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
“Mike is a fine football coach who I got to know well while we coached together at Utah,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “I wish him all the best as he takes over the Indiana State program.”
Sanford came to Utah State after two seasons at Louisville, where, as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, he helped improve the Cardinals’ offensive passing, from nine touchdown passes in 2009 to 20 in 2010.
Prior to Louisville, Sanford was head coach at UNLV from 2005-09, where he took over a program that was coming off four consecutive losing seasons. At UNLV, Sanford replaced his college head coach, John Robinson, who retired after a legendary career that included six seasons with the Rebels.
“Mike Sanford is an outstanding football coach,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick (who was the athletic director who hired Sanford at UNLV) said. “He is a man of integrity and will run a football program that the entire Indiana State University family will be proud of. His teams at UNLV were very competitive and had many big wins over teams such as Utah, Arizona State, Iowa State, Air Force and many others. His reputation as having a brilliant offensive mind is well documented. He will give everything he has to continue the success of Indiana State football.”
Sanford was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stanford in 2002, returning to the college ranks after three seasons in the NFL as wide receivers coach with the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001.
Sanford’s NCAA Division I coaching experience includes stints at Notre Dame, USC, Purdue, Long Beach State, Virginia Military Institute and Army.
As an assistant coach, Sanford has participated in 12 bowl games with five different programs. As the wide receivers coach at USC from 1989-96, Sanford assisted in two Pac-10 championships and two Rose Bowl victories (vs. Michigan in 1990 and Northwestern in 1996).
Sanford began his coaching career in 1977 as a graduate assistant at Southern California before earning his bachelor’s degree from USC in 1978. Later that year, Sanford started his first full-time coaching position as the defensive coordinator at San Diego City College.
As a player, Sanford was a reserve quarterback for USC’s 1973 and 1974 Rose Bowl teams (the 1974 team beat Ohio State for the national championship). He played free safety in 1976 when USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and finished second in the nation.
Sanford, born April 20, 1955, and his wife Melinda have two grown children, a daughter, Lindsay, and a son, Mike, Jr., who is currently the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Stanford and was the quarterback at Boise State from 2001-04.
Sanford also has hired three assistant coaches to his initial Sycamore coaching staff.
Eric Brown remains from the 2012 staff and will coach the outside linebackers. Former Sycamore Jayden Everett has been hired as the running backs coach while Vince Natali will tutor the offensive line.
Brown begins his second season as an assistant coach for the Indiana State football program.
“Eric Brown is an outstanding young coach,” Sanford said. “I have known Eric and his family through a lot of people that I have coached with over the years. He will coach our outside linebackers which is a position that performed at a high level under his guidance last season. He is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff.”
The Sycamore linebacking corps was a key component of the 2012 unit which finished the season ranked third nationally in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. ISU allowed just 14.27 points and 296.36 yards per game.
Brown worked for two seasons at Fresno State, serving as a graduate assistant coach for the Bulldog football team. He spent the 2011 season working on the defensive side of the ball with the defensive line, and worked with the offense during the 2010 campaign.
Brown is a 2011 graduate of Fresno State.
Everett begins his second season as an assistant coach for the Indiana State football program. This is Everett’s second stint on the Sycamore coaching staff as he was an assistant coach in 2009 and played for ISU from 2006-08.
“It is great to have Jayden Everett on our staff as he is a former Sycamore football player and alumnus of the university,” Sanford said. “He brings great enthusiasm, character and excellent people skills to our program.”
He comes back to his alma mater from Hutchinson Community College where he spent the last three seasons as the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach.
Everett helped Miles earn his first collegiate head coaching victory on October 24, 2009, when the Sycamores downed Western Illinois by the score of 17-14 in the annual Homecoming contest in front of more than 6,000 fans.
Everett completed a successful three-year career for the Indiana State program in 2008 that saw him named the team’s Co-Most Valuable Player as well as defensive captain as a senior. Additionally, he was one of three Sycamores to earn All-Missouri Valley Conference Honorable Mention status.
During his final year on the team, Everett recorded 102 total tackles, which ranked in the nation’s top 20 and was in the top five in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Everett had a key forced fumble and recovery in the season finale against Missouri State that allowed Indiana State to comeback from down 14-0 to force overtime. He posted six games in which he recorded double digit tackles, including a season-high 18 stops on Homecoming versus South Dakota State.
Everett graduated from Indiana State in 2009.He and his wife, Susan, were married in July of 2012.
Natali (pronounced na-TAW-lee) begins his first season as an assistant coach with the Indiana State football program. Natali is the Sycamores’ offensive line coach.
“I had the opportunity to work with Vince in 2012 at Utah State,” Sanford said. “He is an extremely intelligent, hardworking guy. Vince possesses great knowledge of the offensive system that we are going to install here at Indiana State as far as how the offensive line is going to be coached.”
He comes to Indiana State from Utah State where he spent the 2012 season as an offensive graduate assistant. At Utah State, Natali assisted the offensive coaches with daily football operations, and worked primarily with the Aggie offensive line.
Prior to his one-year stint at Utah State, Natali worked for two of the world’s largest accounting and advising firms as he spent two years (2008-09) with KPMG in Albuquerque, N.M., and two years (2010-11) with PrizewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, Ill.
Natali, who was a two-year starter and four-year letter winner (2004-07) at center for the University of New Mexico, and played for current Aggie head coach Matt Wells during his senior season in 2007 as Wells was the wide receivers coach for the Lobos.
At New Mexico, Natali earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors during his senior season as he led the team with 118 knockdowns and allowed just one sack. During the year, Natali anchored an offensive line that led the Mountain West in scoring offense and ranked second in total offense.
During his senior season, Natali was the team’s top-graded lineman as he posted an 80 percent overall performance grade in each game, including six games with 90 percent marks. He finished the season with double-digit knockdown blocks in eight games.
Overall, Natali was a three-time academic All-MWC honoree and graduated in 2006 from UNM with a degree in finance as he posted a 3.86 GPA. He then earned his M.B.A from New Mexico in 2008.
Natali was born Feb. 10, 1985, in Park Ridge, Ill. His older brother, Steve, was an offensive lineman at Northwestern (2000-02). His parents Fausto and Nicolina were both born in Italy and he is fluent in the language.
Ace Hunt is the director of athletic media relations.