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Montana State's new defensive coordinator carries rich coaching history

Montana State Football
Posted at 5:37 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 09:54:19-05

BOZEMAN — After Freddie Banks' departure from Montana State as the Cats defensive coordinator for a job at FBS level, the program wasted no time searching for someone to take over the reins, and in late January they finally found their guy in Willie Mack Garza.

“Obviously some big shoes to fill, but I think we got the right guy to do it," Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen said.

Garza is coming from McNeese State where he coached safeties during the 2021 season – just one of many stops during his 20-plus years of coaching – including stints with Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen.

“‘I’ve known Willie Mack since 2005 when he was hired at North Dakota State," Vigen explained. "Then most recently had a chance to work again with Willie Mack in 2019 at the University of Wyoming.”

Garza has made 14 different stops in his career, three of which were spent as a defensive coordinator: NDSU, Dixie State, and Tarleton State.

While climbing up the coaching ladder, he also spent time with Tennessee and USC as an assistant, but quickly found himself back at the bottom.

“Coach Garza has made some mistakes in his past," Vigen discussed. "Mistakes that he would own up to - he does own up to - and I have the ability to move on from that because I know what type of man he is and I know the type of coach he is.”

The first mistake came in 2003 when he was a cornerbacks coach at TCU and was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Then in 2011, he was tied to an NCAA investigation where he allegedly wired $1,500 to a Tennesse Recruit for expenses during an unofficial visit.

Most recently in 2019 while coaching safeties at Wyoming, Garza was charged with another DUI.

“I know he’s coached a lot of different places, and the circumstances that have led to different moves moving up and some different things," Vigen explained. "He’s got a really excellent defensive mind. Great technician and I thought my experience with him - our secondary always played well. Guys always developed. Guys always improved, and really appreciated working with Willie Mack.”

While a new coach normally means new schemes, Vigen was quick to reassure that not much will change on defense.

“The number one question I got from our players is 'are we going to change defenses?'" Vigen stated. "I said that’s not what we're going to do. Now, we’ll have new personnel - a new player caller - so there might be some subtle tweaks I suppose, but ultimately the foundation of our defense and terminology will all continue to be the same.”

Now that the Bobcats have found their new defensive coordinator, Vigen says the program has switched their focus to filling two of their assistant coaching positions they lost after the FCS Championship: defensive line and tight ends.