Rumored for the past several days, the University of Utah made it official Monday when they announced Dennis Erickson as the Co-Offensive Coordinator.
That’s what most Utah fans have been reading about in blog posts and articles all day. But, in case you missed it, the team also announced it would be moving to a 3-4 defense in 2o13.
Both moves should give Utes fans plenty to talk about over the next 198 days before Utah welcomes Utah State to Rice Eccles Stadium. I’ll have more on the move to a 3-4 defense Tuesday.
Dennis Erickson’s official position on the staff is Co-Offensive Coordinator. So what does that mean for current OC Brian Johnson? Coach Kyle Whittingham said Erickson and Johnson would work “shoulder to shoulder” but that Erickson, not Johnson, would have the final say. “You don’t bring in a guy like Dennis Erickson without handing him the reigns,” Whittingham said of Erickson. Aaron Roderick also remains on staff as the Wide Receivers Coach and Passing Game Coordinator. It sounds like a lot of mouths/egos to feed, in my opinion, so it will be interesting to see how the three work together. Whittingham said both he and Brian Johnson were excited to learn from Erickson. One aspect I love about this three-headed monster, however, is that it should free up Brian Johnson to be on the field and in Wilson’s ear the moment he steps off the field. You’ll remember, Johnson was on the field for consecutive games against Cal and Washington St. last season and the Utes put up 49 points in each. Asked about his ability to fit in as OC, Erickson said he doesn’t have an ego and is willing to do whatever is best for the program and the coaching staff.
So what about the identity of the offense? I think Erickson feels, like most fans, that Utah lacked a true offensive philosophy in 2012. In one of many interviews he gave Monday, Erickson said, “We’ve got to have an identity, whatever that might be, and build our offense around that. ” Erickson said those decisions would be made once he gets a closer look at the personnel but hinted that the team will continue to operate from the spread with one-back sets. Some formations will include three or four WRs while others will have two or three TEs. But Coach Whitt reiterated that the Utes will not be starting over offensively. He feels like the team improved on some things last season, and they want to build on that. Along with identity, I think the Utes need stability. Most fans will remember the days of Andy Ludwig who was replaced after the ‘o8 season. Since Ludwig, Utah has replaced its Offensive Coordinator every year. Fans have been calling for the OC’s head ever since Mike Sanford took off for UNLV after losing the head coaching job to Whittingham. And most years the fans have won that argument. But the turnover has certainly taken its toll on Utah’s offensive output.
You may not love Dennis Erickson’s scheme, or you think this hire will cause rifts in the Utah coaching staff, or you believe Erickson is an old drunk who has very little, if any, game left, but I don’t think you can argue with what Erickson brings to the table in terms of recruiting. KW said Erickson brings a huge benefit in recruiting, “…guy can spot NFL talent a mile away.” Erickson’s primary recruiting responsibility will be to go from coast to coast and be in the homes of the top QBs in the nation. It’s a job Whitt thinks he will be very good at, given his experience coaching some of the best players of all time, including Ray Lewis. Speaking of Lewis, Erickson added that had he been at Utah a year ago, they might have been able to land the NFL star’s son who recently signed a Letter of Intent to play for the other U, Miami. Erickson told Bill Riley that Utah can compete in the PAC 12 South, but it starts with recruiting and getting speed on the football field. And it’s not just offense, Erickson feels the team could benefit from better speed in the secondary and at linebacker, which any Utah fan that watched last season’s ASU game would agree with. It is this aspect of the Dennis Erickson hire that has me most excited.
Erickson will officially join the staff on February 19 pending doctor approval since he recently had hip surgery.