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Utah hires Dennis Erickson to run offense

Dennis Erickson is back in the Pac-12, this time as the offensive coordinator at Utah. (Associated Press)
Dennis Erickson is back in the Pac-12, this time as the offensive coordinator at Utah. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY – Dennis Erickson won a pair of national football championships at Miami and has been a head coach at three Pac-12 schools.

Now the 65-year-old is coming out of retirement to help transform Utah’s offense, joining 26-year-old Brian Johnson as co-offensive coordinator.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham made it clear during a Monday news conference, however, that Erickson would have final say as coordinator despite the “co” in his title.

He called Erickson a good fit, even though he will be yet another offensive mind in the mix – especially with quarterback Travis Wilson returning after getting thrown into the fire as a freshman last season.

“We weren’t very good on offense last year, but I think we’re doing some good things and we need to build on that,” Whittingham said. “I think he’s going to allow us to do that without having a wholesale systematic change. It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn from (him).”

Whittingham wasn’t sugar-coating Utah’s offensive woes.

The Utes were 105th in the nation last season in total offense, averaging 324.42 yards, 97th in passing offense (190.67) and 91st in rushing offense (133.75).

Johnson, a former Utah QB who engineered the Utes’ Sugar Bowl victory, struggled at times since becoming major college football’s youngest coordinator last year.

Whittingham said hiring Erickson is not a demotion.

“In no way, shape or form does this diminish my opinion of Brian or what I think his future is,” Whittingham said.

Instead, Whittingham said he believes Erickson can help implement some aspects of the high-tempo offense so popular now in the Pac-12.

Whittingham said he has followed Erickson’s career from Idaho, where he got his start in 1982. Erickson has been a head coach at six schools. His Pac-12 resume includes Washington State, and he also led the Seattle Seahawks.

“He has been labeled as one of the original architects of the spread and we are looking forward to the impact he will have on our offense,” Whittingham said.

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