Mentorship between Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson to shape future of Utah football offense

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.


  1. Chris B

    I can’t think of another program in the country with 2 current coaches that have EACH taken their teams to top 2 final rankings. I am ecstatic over the hire. This was supposed to be USC’s division. That didnt turn out as everyone though. UCLA and Arizona have been mostly impressive. Even Arizona State(which Ericson will be invaluable for) has had some good teams.

    No reason to think we don’t have just as good of a chance to win the division as anyone. I’d take our coaches over Lane Kiffin any day. Jim Mora has turned out to be a good hire, but I wouldnt even trade him for Whittingham and Ericson.

    Pumped about the future. Whittingham knows how to take us to the top, because he already did take us to the top. With each additional Alabama championship, his coaching skills are futher validated. I’d say its a 3 team race between USC, UCLA, and Utah next year. Bring out football! Go Utes!

  2. Roger Jolly

    I am for one very interested what the Ute offense is going to look like this year. Will there be growing pains? I’m sure, but I definitely think Utah could be a ‘dark horse’ in the Pac-12.

  3. Jeffe

    Erickson WAS a good coach and offensive mind 20 years ago. He won National Championships at Miami in 1989 and 1991. But hasn’t done squat since. His all-time bowl record is 5-7 and he has been fired 3 times. Not saying he can’t or won’t contribute at Utah, but i don’t think he will have the impact Ute fans are hoping for. A couple years ago Ute fans said the same things about Norm Chow, only to see that those years of experience mattered very little against better talent, coaching, and competition. Take a look at DE’s record over the past 10 years.

    San Fransisco (03-04) 9-23
    Idaho (2006) 4-8
    Arizona St. (2007-2011) 31-31
    That puts his totals at 44-Wins 62-Losses.
    I guess I just don’t see what reason there is to believe he is going to turn the offense around. From what we have seen in the past decade from offensive teams like Oregon, Boise St.,West Virginia, and Florida; it is clear that experience does not translate to success. Imagination, leadership, and the ability to tailor an offense to the talent on your roster beats experience any day.

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