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Utah's newly anointed coordinator is still too young to rent a car from some companies, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham trusts Brian Johnson enough to not only give him the keys to Utah's offense he's also going to let him open up the hood and tinker with the engine.
Johnson, who turns 25 on Feb. 16, said he wants to run a multifaceted offense next year that would not only utilize returning running back John White and recent signee Kelvin York, but also get more aggressive in the passing game.
Johnson said he isn't sure exactly how the offense will look, only that he knows the Utes need more production than they had in 2011.
Utah ranked 74th in scoring offense last year, averaging 25 points per game, and was 109th out of 120 schools in total offense, producing just 310.9 yards a game.
"We need to have the ability to line up in a myriad of formations and groupings," he said. "We have a ton of talent here. We can do some two-back stuff, and we need to find receivers we feel comfortable with in the game."
According to Whittingham, quarterback Jordan Wynn has completely recovered from the shoulder injury that prevented him from playing much of the 2011 season, and he remains the No. 1 quarterback.
However, Johnson acknowledged recent signees Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson were mobile quarterbacks, which is just the kind of guy he wants running the offense.
"You have to be able to run the quarterback in college football; that is the way it is going," he said. "The days of being a statue back there are over, and you have to have mobility whether that is pocket mobility or the mobility to escape the pocket and do stuff with your legs. There are two types of mobility. Jordan won't break a 50-yard run, but he can slide with his feet in the pocket."
Johnson, who credited former Utah offensive coordinator and current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen as his greatest offensive influence, said he is confident he is ready to serve as coordinator of a Pac-12 team, even though he is just two years removed from the field.
"I've been young for everything in my life; it's nothing new to me," he said.
Evidently his confidence was enough to convince Whittingham, who said he ultimately decided Johnson and Aaron Roderick who served as coordinator in 2010 and was named the passing game coordinator Thursday were his best two candidates.
He tabbed Johnson as the coordinator because he liked his leadership and felt he was a better fit for the direction in which he wanted the Utes to go.
"The bottom line is you are either smart enough and have enough drive and have the work ethic to figure it out or not," Whittingham said. "But experience is overrated in that respect. You can be an assistant for 20 years and it still may not prepare you for that chair."
No one attending Thursday's news conference tried to hide the fact that Roderick was disappointed he didn't get the job.
Whittingham said he valued Roderick's ability to devise route structures and schemes in the throw game and that he would be a coordinator soon.
In the meantime, Roderick said he and Johnson had a good relationship.
"It's part of life," he said. "Players deal with disappointments all the time. Every receiver I coach wants the ball all the time and they can't have it."
Like Johnson, Roderick said the Utes have to open up the offense to be successful in the Pac-12.
"Hopefully we can throw it better than we did last year," he said. "We need to improve in every way and protect the quarterback and be more efficient with the ball and be more explosive down the field."
Utah's offense under Kyle Whittingham
Year Avg Natl
2011 25 74th
2010 33.1 23rd
2009 29.9 34th
2008 36.9 15th
2007 26.2 68th
2006 27.9 33rd
2005 30.0 36th
Year Avg Natl
2011 310.9 109th
2010 389.0 57th
2009 389.5 54th
2008 400.9 35th
2007 369.9 79th
2006 368.4 41st
2005 473.0 12th
Brian Johnson file
From • Baytown, Texas
Age • 24
Playing history • Began his career during Utah's 2004 season in which he played in 10 games. He started for the Utes in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and redshirted in 2006 while recovering from a knee injury. … Went 26-7 as Utah's starting quarterback to set a school record for career wins. … Was the MVP of the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Coaching career • Hired prior to the 2010 to coach Utah's quarterbacks and was responsible for developing Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain in 2010, and coaching Jon Hays in 2011.
Other • Recruiting areas are Dallas, New Orleans. … Has a Bachelor's in mass communication.