View from the Booth: What will Utah football look like with Dennis Erickson?
"It's not about the money, it's about coaching, and I'm a coach. It's all I've done all my life. Making me sit out last year made me appreciate it even more."
For the fifth time in as many years, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham has named a new offensive coordinator. For the second time in his tenure he will have co-offensive coordinators. The latest appointee, Dennis Erickson, will wear the label as co-coordinator with Brian Johnson, but having spent the last 30 years as a head coach and bringing an impressive offensive resume to Utah, I would expect he's more than just a co-coordinator.
So just what should Utah football fans expect from the Dennis Erickson offense next season? When Erickson joined me on the radio this week, he talked like a man that knew his personnel and knew exactly what he wanted to do offensively. Erickson told me he wants to run a "spread" offense: three receivers, one back, a little tight end, and most importantly moving the quarterback around.
This should be music to the ears of Ute fans that have pined for the days of spreading the field the way Mike Sanford and Andy Ludwig did for Utah over the last decade, back when Alex Smith and Brian Johnson led high-powered offensive attacks for the Utes.
There's no denying Erickson's pedigree with offensive football; simply look to his squads at Washington State, Miami, Oregon State and most recently at Arizona State.
The only question? Does Utah have the personnel right now to effectively run what Erickson wants? He believes he does but won't know for sure until he sees his guys on the field during spring practices.
Erickson was extremely complimentary of quarterback Travis Wilson in our conversation Monday afternoon, comparing him in some ways to his last QB at Arizona State, Brock Osweiler, who's now with the Denver Broncos. At the very least, he will have options at QB.
AT QUARTERBACK: Wilson will come into the spring ball with the most experience on the roster, having played in 12 games, staring the last seven. Freshman Brandon Cox, a dual-threat QB, from Pasadena, Calif., is enrolled and will participate in spring ball. And this summer Connor Manning, a pro style QB, from Orange County, Calif., will join the quarterback crew. Expect both Cox and Manning to push Wilson for playing time.
AT WIDE RECEIVER: The depth at this position for Erickson is immense. Kenneth Scott, Dres Anderson, Anthony Denham, Quinton Pedroza are all returners, plus the addition of JC All-American Andre Lewis should give Erickson/Johnson and the Utah offense a fair number of play-making options.
AT RUNNING BACK: This is where Erickson will likely have the most question marks entering the season. Utah doesn't have a clear-cut playmaker in this group with the departure of John White. Kelvin York, Lucky Radley, JC transfer Devontae Booker and freshmen Marcus Williams and Dre'Vian Young will all compete for playing time, but this is clearly one of the big question marks heading into spring.
Erickson told me that he believes the talent is there to compete and challenge next season in the Pac-12 South. Watching how the co-offensive coordinators mold that talent to fit their new philosophy will be interesting to watch.
Bill Riley is the co-host of the Bill and Hans Show weekdays from 2-6 p.m on ESPN 700 AM. You can follow Bill on Twitter @espn700bill.
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