Well folks, welcome to the college football off-season, a magical place where relatively mundane news all-of-a-sudden turns into the Earth-shattering and overanalyzed variety that we’ve all come to know and love.
That happened on Monday morning, when the University of Utah announced Dennis Erickson- who has had about a million jobs in college football, most recently as the head coach at Arizona State- has been hired as their new co-offensive coordinator.
In the grand scheme of the 2013 college football season, this hire probably doesn’t mean all that much, since after all, Utah has gone just 13-12 in two seasons in the Pac-12. But in February, and in the slow weeks following Signing Day but before spring ball kicks off… let the over-analyzation begin!
Looking at this in the big picture, the move is an interesting one in that the Utes made a very similar hire last February when they tabbed former quarterback Brian Johnson as their offensive coordinator. Johnson had been quarterbacks coach prior to his promotion, and is also a local legend after leading the Utes to a 12-0 regular season in 2008 and shocking upset over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl the following January.
Of course while many thought it was cute to promote the then 23-year-old Johnson to the coordinator’s position at the ripe age of 23, it yielded little success on the field this past season. Utah averaged just 324 yards of total offense per game, a number that just didn’t match up in the wacky Pac-12, where just about everyone scores 40 points a game every time they take the field. Utah finished 11th in the conference in offense, trailing only the abysmal Colorado Buffaloes.
And while a lot of the Utes struggles can be blamed on injuries (starting quarterback Jordan Wynn went out the second week of the year, and John White IV was nicked up early on too), the sad reality is that Utah simply wasn’t very good on that side of the ball. Come to think of it, they actually haven’t been good since moving from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 two years ago, and after missing the postseason for the postseason this past year for the first time since Wittingham took over in the 2005 season, the head coach decided to make a change.
Now granted, at this point it’s impossible to know what Erickson’s role with the team will be (and whether it will conflict with Johnson’s play-calling duties), but regardless, one thing remains clear: The guy’s resume does speak for himself.
Since 1982 (ironically, five years before Johnson was even born), Erickson has had seven different college head coaching jobs, including two separate stints at the University of Idaho (because apparently, he just couldn’t get enough of Moscow, ID), as well as head coaching stops with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the NFL too. During that time he led Miami to two National Championships and Oregon State to a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2000, which is the Beavers’ first and only BCS bowl game appearance to date.
And while his head coaching chops were called into question in his final years at Arizona State- where Vontaze Burfict ran wild, and off the field problems constantly plagued the program- Erickson still had a knack for calling plays. In his final season in Tempe, the Sun Devils finished in the Top 30 nationally in both scoring offense (28th overall) and total yardage (24th), putting up 33.2 points and 445.8 yards per game respectively. In the process it led Brock Osweiler- yes, all 6’8 inches of him- to throw for over 4,000 yards, before he was eventually drafted by the Denver Broncos.
Simply put, this seems like a good move for Utah, and should jumpstart an offense that frankly, needs all the help it can get.
At the very least, it could lead to some very interesting conversation in the offensive meeting room this fall.
After all, what the heck could the soon to be 25-year-old Johnson, and a man 40-years his senior really have to talk about?
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