Rumors that Ephraim Banda would be hired as Utah State’s defensive coordinator have been swirling since before Christmas.
Those rumors became a reality Tuesday when new Aggie head coach Blake Anderson officially announced that Banda would be in charge of his program’s defense, plus the safeties coach. Banda has spent the past five seasons at the University of Miami, where he was the co-defensive coordinator from 2019-20.
“Ephraim is a proven coach and one of the best recruiters in the country,” Anderson said in a press release. “His defenses are known for creating havoc in the backfield with sacks and tackles for loss, in addition to forcing turnovers at a high rate. He is a terrific teacher and motivator, and his energy will translate onto the field with our players.”
Indeed, Banda has made a name for himself as a recruiter. The former safety at Incarnate Word has landed the top-ranked safety in the nation during the past two recruiting cycles — James Williams of American Heritage (Florida) High School in the 2021 class, and Avantae Williams of DeLand (Florida) High School in 2020.
Additionally, Miami’s defense excelled at making big plays under Banda’s watch the past two seasons. This past fall the Hurricanes ranked fourth among all FBS programs in tackles per loss (8.6 per game), 16th in fumbles recovered (nine) and 33rd in sacks (2.73 pg). In 2019, Miami ranked fourth nationally in tackles for loss (8.3 pg), 13th in total defense (309.8 yards per game) and 12th in yards per play allowed (4.7).
Banda also served as Miami’s safeties coach from 2016-20. During that timespan, the Hurricanes have had five defensive backs move on to the NFL.
“My family and I are extremely excited to join coach Blake Anderson, Athletic Director John Hartwell, the football staff and the Aggie family,” Banda said in a press release. “We are looking forward to arriving in Utah this week and immersing ourselves into the Logan community. As a family, we take great pride in building strong, meaningful relationships with our student-athletes and can’t wait to meet them. Our defensive staff is ready to bring a brand of defense built on urgency, physicality and disruption that will be fun to watch. Go Aggies!”
Prior to his time at Miami, Banda was a defensive assistant at Mississippi State (2015) and a defensive graduate assistant at Texas (2012-14). Banda was a student assistant at his alma mater in 2011.
Banda, who played at Incarnate Word from 2008-10, has a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in communications.
In addition to Banda, Anderson announced the hiring of two more coaches Tuesday. Like Anderson, Nick Paremski and Kyle Cefalo will also be making the move from Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Cache Valley. Paremski is USU’s new special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach, while Cefalo will coach the wide receivers and serve as the passing game coordinator.
Cefalo and Paremski have actually been a part of Anderson’s staff since he first arrived in Logan prior to his introductory press conference last month. Paremski, Cefalo and Anderson have coached together at Arkansas State for the past four seasons.
Paremski was ASU’s interim defensive coordinator this past fall and was also the program’s special teams co-coordinator — along with Cefalo — from 2019-20. Paremski has coached the Red Wolves’ safeties the past two seasons, and was the program’s outside linebackers coach in 2018 and a quality control assistant from 2016-17.
“(Paremski) was with me the last few years there are Arkansas State as well and he’s done a great job on the defensive side of the ball,” Anderson said during the aforementioned introductory press conference.
This past season the Red Wolves ranked 12th nationally in kickoff return defense (17.03 per attempt), plus had a kickoff returner that ranked 31st in average yards per return.
Paremski coached at West Texas A&M from 2006-15 and was the program’s defensive coordinator those last three years. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. Like Banda, Paremski is married and has two children.
In Cefalo, the Aggies will be getting a coach with a proven track record for explosive aerial attacks. The Red Wolves routinely finished among the national leaders in passing yards, plus Cefalo has mentored a trio of first-team all-Sun Belt Conference wide receivers since 2017 in Jonathan Adams Jr., Kirk Merritt and Omar Bayless. Adams Jr. and Bayless have both been semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented annually to the top wideout at the collegiate level.
Adams Jr. was recently selected as the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. Bayless and Merritt both signed NFL free agent contracts, and Bayless shattered single-season school records in receiving yards (1,653) and touchdowns (17) in 2019.
“If you look at our wide receiver numbers and our pass game numbers — this year we finished third in the country, and the last couple of years (we’ve had) Biletnikoff Award (semifinalists) and guys going to the NFL — wideouts are going to want to play for that guy right there,” Anderson said while pointing to Cefalo during his introductory press conference.
Cefalo coached Arkansas State’s receivers from 2017-20 and also has coaching experience as a grad assistant at Maryland (2016) and Arkansas State (2013-15), plus experience in the Mountain West Conference as a recruiting intern at Boise State (2013).
The native of Boston was a wide receiver at the University of Colorado from 2009-11, where he earned a scholarship after originally walking on. He was also a star baseball player who originally signed with Oregon State.
Cefalo graduated from Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in history.
One of Cefalo’s top receivers this past season, Brandon Bowling, will be joining him in Logan. Bowling has verbally committed to the Aggies as a graduate transfer and will enroll for the upcoming spring semester. Bowling garnered honorable mention all-conference honors in ’20 after catching 39 passes for 507 yards and seven touchdowns.
Anderson has now formally announced the addition of six coaches to his staff. The hiring of defensive line coach Al Lapuaho, tight end coach DJ Tialavea and running backs coach Chuckie Keeton were announced Monday. All three of those men were former teammates and standout players at Utah State.
Other members of Anderson’s staff will be officially introduced in the upcoming days.
FORMER AGGIE COACH HIRED
Jason Phillips, who was USU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach from 2019-20, has found a landing spot. Phillips was officially named Jackson State’s co-offensive coordinator and WR coach on Tuesday.
Jackson State is coached by Deion Sanders, a former professional football and baseball player. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.