Brian Johnson is a Utah guy.
Dennis Erickson is a national championship-worthy coach.
If you ask me, together the two could create something pretty spectacular. Now I am not saying, Kyle Whittingham has fixed all our offensive struggles by creating a co-offensive coordinator situation.
I am not that naïve.
What I am saying is Whittingham combined a true Utah-hero with a truly talented, longtime offensive-minded coach. Erickson will clearly act as a mentor to the young Johnson, and the future of the program will depend on how much Johnson can learn from Erickson in his tenure with Utah.
The Pac-12 ESPN blog recognized the Utes’ transaction as arguably the best coordinator hire in the conference thus far. ESPN blogger Kevin Gemmell claimed Utah getting a three-time coach of the year as their offensive coordinator was not a bad deal. The Utes quickly went from being one of the worst offenses in the conference to having the most experienced offensive coordinator in the nation.
“Consider Erickson’s hire an investment for the future,” Gemmell said. “And it’s safe to bet you’re going to see a return.”
I think the majority of criticisms regarding the co-offensive coordinator situation stem from people who don’t recognize that Erickson can and will act as a mentor for Johnson. National critics believe Johnson will have a bright career, he just needs advice on how to get his offense out of it’s current hole.
“I hope that’s something I can help him do,” Erickson said regarding his new mentorship role with Johnson. “We’re going to talk about everything we do. Five or six years down the road, I think my experience is going to help him in his future. It’s hard to be 25 years old and all the sudden you’re a coordinator. It’s a lot easier said than done.”
This kid is not going anywhere, as long as he makes steps forward in leading the offense. But, with pressures from the Utes’ first two seasons in the Pac-12 and not so ‘Pac-worthy’ offensive talent, Johnson has taken a beating.
This beating occurred in the form of his confidence slowly being destroyed by harsh criticism in the national spotlight. Johnson is a young guy and can’t be expected to immediately take the Utes to another undefeated season. What can be expected of him is to learn and grow with the program, ultimately making a future of consistent success in Utah football.
As expected, people following the Utes have their doubts. And with those doubts, they want a quick and easy fix:
Get rid of Johnson, he is not the man for the job.
So what if Johnson was demoted and Whittingham hired Erickson to be the sole Utah offensive coordinator. Would fans all be on board with that decision? Truth is, probably not.
So, I may take a beating of my own by saying this, but I trust Johnson with the Utes offense.
Johnson’s first year as OC was not all peaches-and-cream. But hey, he did lead Utah to one of the best football seasons in history at quarterback and ran that 2008 offense flawlessly. He know’s what it takes to be unbeatable.
However until he has all the pieces, constructing the puzzle of a powerful Utah offense will remain impossibly difficult.
Last year he introduced a spread offense, one that Erickson is in large part credited with pioneering. This sets up Erickson to come in and improve upon the principles that Johnson already implemented in the Utah offense. He has the opportunity then to teach and show the young co-offensive coordinator how to run it smoothly, which is where Johnson struggled last year.
All this being said, whether you like it or not, Johnson is the future of Utah football offense.
Check out Utah Utes beat writer Dirk Facer’s original article on the addition of Dennis Erickson.