The Utah Utes were gutted by injuries on offense last season, and it showed in their production on the field. They ranked No. 11 in the Pac 12 in total offense and last in the conference in passing offense, averaging just 190.7 yards per game through the air. Head coach Kyle Whittingham, never afraid to shuffle his coaching staff to help the team, is looking to change all that by adding the experienced offensive mind of Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator.
In all, the 65-year old Erickson has been a head coach at six different universities over his career, including three current Pac 12 programs, most recently as the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils. He’s one of the pioneers of the spread offense and instantly becomes one of the most experienced offensive coordinators in all of college football. That’s good for Utah as they pair him up with Brian Johnson, who was one of the least experienced coordinators in football last year when he got the job.
But how will Erickson change the Utah offense, which so desperately needs something to change? In all honesty, he won’t be offering a wildly different philosophy to Salt Lake City. Johnson introduced the spread to the Utes program last season, though to less-than-spectacular results. Erickson is widely considered one of the innovators of the spread in college football, so the offensive philosophy isn’t likely to change, but the experience level in the coaches booth just went through the roof.
And that can only help Johnson and the Utes’ offense. At times last season, the Utah offense looked disjointed and aimless with the play-calling lacking a natural flow or rhythm. Just as soon as the Utes would hit a big play or get someone into a groove, the plays would slow things down or go in a completely different direction, leading to a sputtering out on most drives.
Part of that could be the inconsistency in lineups due to injury, but a bigger part was probably Johnson’s inexperience. With one of the grandfathers’ of the spread sitting next to him, Johnson is about to get a master’s course in calling plays for this offense. If he keeps his mind open to what Erickson brings to the table, it will only make him stronger as a play caller and offensive coach.
So Dennis Erickson isn’t being brought in to make drastic changes to the Utah offense, he’s simply here to make the Utah offense run drastically smoother, which everyone can agree will be a much needed improvement.