The Utah Utes have been without an offensive coordinator since before the Sun Bowl when Norm Chow left to take the head coaching job with the Hawaii Warriors, and it took about six weeks to find his replacement. The new offensive coordinator is Brian Johnson who has been the quarterbacks coach for the past two years and was a quarterback for Utah and led them to an undefeated 2008 season which included a blowout over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
Here is what Whittingham is saying about the hire:
"After spending the past month conducting a national search for an offensive coordinator, it became very apparent that we had the best candidate for the job right here on our own staff," said Whittingham of his decision to promote Johnson, who turns 25 on Feb. 16. "Brian is a leader and a special coaching talent, just as he was a special player, and he is the right person to lead our offense," said Whittingham, who in 1995 became Utah's defensive coordinator after just one year as an assistant coach.
Promoting Johnson within has gone with what head coach Kyle Whittingham has done ever since he took over the program back in 2005. Every single coordinator hire has been a promotion within with the exception of Norm Chow, but he basically fell into their lap as Chow was being pushed out of his job with the UCLA Bruins.
This should be concerning for Utah that Whittingham had to hire a coach who has only two years of total coaching experience and has never called a play. Chow did mentor Johnson some during his 10 months at Utah, but it is different when you are creating an offensive game plan and are the guy in charge.
This hire shows that Whittingham has basically no offensive coaching connections to draw from. It is also why the only names actually linked to the job were Gary Crowton and Aaron Rodderick. Whittingham could have hired someone who was not from the Utah family, but who knows if Whittingham wanted someone he knew, trusted or someone that he could have control over. The latter seems unlikely since being around Whittingam for the time I covered Utah that does not seem to be the case. He usually lets the offensive staff do their thing.
Johnson is an exceptional talent as he basically was calling the plays during the undefeated 2008 season, but that as I just mentioned that is very different from creating a game plan. Plus, changing a play at the line of scrimmage after seeing what the defense is doing is different than calling plays based on field position and defensive trends.
This hire is seeing a lot of mixed reviews about the hire ranging from what is Whittingham thinking to his track record speaks for himself. However, none have said that this a great hire and I am in between but leaning toward this not being the best move for the Utah program.