The Utah Utes named former Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator Monday. Erickson will work with Brian Johnson who is entering his second year as OC. I’ve been covering Kyle Whittingham’s Utah program since his first year as head coach before heading to Phoenix for two years to get an up close look at Erickson’s Sun Devils, then coming back to Salt Lake City.
Here are some of the positives and negatives of the Erickson hiring:
-Experience: Erickson has been coaching much longer (42 years) than Johnson has been alive (26). As you would expect from a young first year coordinator Johnson struggled in his first year calling plays. Erickson can be a steadying influence and a mentor to Johnson. On the defensive side of the ball, Gary Andersen and Kalani Sitake had one in Kyle Whittingham. Now Johnson has one on the offensive side.
-Spread mastermind: In the official hiring press release Whittingham called Erickson “one of the original architects of the spread.” That can only be helpful to an offense that essentially last year switched midseason to the spread when freshman Travis Wilson took over at quarterback. Erickson can help the Utes finally establish an offensive identity.
-Age: As much as it can be a positive it could be a negative. He’s 65. One has to wonder how much juice he has left in the tank. In his final year at Arizona State he completely lost his team. They were one of the most undisciplined programs in the country. Does he have the fire and energy to not only put in the hours necessary to do the job but also hit the recruiting trail? He didn’t have it at Arizona State.
-Chemistry: Can a 65 year old mesh with a 26 year old? And can Johnson accept what is essentially a demotion? It will be interesting to see how this all works out as the Utes now don’t have just one, but two coaches (Aaron Roderick) that have been slighted.