Utah Utes football: Johnson ahead of the curve once again
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Brian Johnson has a history of early advancement. Being named Utah's offensive coordinator at the tender age of 24 is just the latest milestone for the soft-spoken Texan.
"He's been the exception to the rule his whole life," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "He starts school when he's 5 years old and boom they put him in second grade right out of the gate. He skips first grade and kindergarten."
Johnson claims he learned how to read when he was just 2 years old. Whittingham, however, jokingly said he might have to call Johnson's mother to verify that.
"It sounds a little Uncle Rico-ish to me," Whittingham quipped.
Even so, it shouldn't come as any surprise if Johnson could, indeed, throw a football over them mountains. He's continually reaching new heights.
"He's always been ahead of the curve ever since he started school — signed a letter-of-intent as a 16-year-old senior in high school and was a starting Division I quarterback at 18 years old," Whittingham said. "So there's never a point in his life, I don't believe, that he hasn't been ahead of the curve."
As such, Johnson is eager to take on another challenge — even one as large as being an offensive coordinator in the Pac-12.
"I've been young for everything I've done in my life. So it's nothing new to me," he said. "I've always believed that hard work pays off. So you've got to continue to grind, keep working and good things usually happen."
After expressing appreciation to Whittingham for giving him the opportunity to direct Utah's offense, Johnson noted that he's ready for it and has no fear. He believes the slight age difference between himself and the players will be beneficial because he can relate to what they're going through.
Johnson added that the Utes have a lot of talented players and his job is to put them in position to be successful.
Whittingham said he believes in Johnson "100 percent" and is confident the former Utah quarterback will be successful, even with just two years of experience as a position coach — overseeing the quarterbacks.
"He's been ahead of the curve his entire life," Whittingham said. "And I've got no doubt that he's got the necessary skills to get the job done."
Johnson replaces Norm Chow, who left the Utes after one season to become the head coach at Hawaii.
After conducting a nationwide search, Whittingham said it became very apparent that the top two candidates were already on his staff — Johnson and wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick.
"A-Rod is a very good football coach and certainly was one of the guys that was right there at the end," Whittingham said. "But I felt for our situation, our current situation, where I want to go and the leadership Brian demonstrated as a player was the better fit at this point and time."
Whittingham acknowledged that Roderick, who was promoted to passing game coordinator in a coaching staff restructuring announced Thursday morning, was disappointed.
"Aaron Roderick is a competitive individual and he has every right to believe he could have been the coordinator or should have been the coordinator, Whittingham said before noting that Roderick is the "ultimate team guy" who is on board with the situation.
Although disappointed with how things turned out, Roderick told reporters he was fine with it. The 39-year-old has been on Whittingham's staff since 2005 and was the co-offensive coordinator before Chow was hired.
"I have a great relationship with Brian and I love this program," Roderick said. "I've had a great experience coaching here. I accept it. I'll just go forward."
Roderick insists there's no issue between he and Johnson, and both will continue to oversee the receivers and quarterbacks, respectively.
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