Utah Utes football: Brian Johnson calling plays from the field a good switch
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson is glad to be back on the field. Calling plays from a position of isolation in the press box just isn’t his style.
“I feel so much more comfortable down there. I’ve been down there for the last eight years in that role,” Johnson said. “You get a much better feel and flow for things when you feel the emotion of the game.”
The former Utah quarterback and current position coach swapped game-day spots with passing coordinator and receivers coach Aaron Roderick two weeks ago. With Johnson on the field working with true freshman quarterback Travis Wilson and Roderick watching the action from the box, the Utes have gone 2-0 — defeating California (49-27) and Washington State (49-6).
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that having an experienced coordinator like Roderick in the box has been beneficial. Johnson agrees, noting that Roderick has been up there before and does a great job.
Despite the switch in vantage points, Johnson is still calling the plays.
“It might be a little bit unorthodox but you look around the country and around the NFL there’s a ton of guys who call the game from the sideline and have success,” Johnson said, while noting that Green Bay’s Tom Clements does a great job doing so.
Most of the stuff, Johnson explained, is done during the week. Adjustments are made during games.
As for the new-found efficiency by Utah’s offense, Whittingham acknowledged that the scheme has recently been tweaked — and not because Johnson moved to the field and/or Roderick is coaching upstairs.
“I think it’s more a conscious decision on our part to streamline things and make the plans a little bit more simplistic and just get more repetitions at fewer things than have a bigger plan and not be able to polish it up as much,” Whittingham said.
REGGIE ON THE RADAR: Washington coach Steve Sarkisian knows all about Utah’s Reggie Dunn and his three 100-yard kickoff returns over the past two weeks. Sarkisian has known him for years, dating back to his coaching days at USC when Dunn was “a little squirt” at nearby Verbum Dei High.
“Reggie has always been explosive. He’s always been fast. He’s always had big-play capabilities,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously he’s been on a little bit of a roll here the last couple of weeks, but we’re very aware of where he is — not only on special teams but when they bring him in on offense as well.”
NOT LOOKING BACK: Roderick has no regrets about passing on an opportunity to work with Sarkisian, his former BYU teammate, at Washington. Roderick accepted a position on the Huskies’ staff in January 2009 before opting to go back to Utah.
“I love it here. This is home,” Roderick said. “You don’t look back on things like that.”
Roderick also downplayed the reunion, of sorts, with Sarkisian.
“You coach against people you know every week,” Roderick said. “The fact that he and I know each other is probably more publicized than the fact that I know coaches on just about every other staff we’ve played this year.”
SHARING IT: Although Utah running back John White enjoys carrying a heavy workload, he’s also been happy to see fullbacks Karl Williams and Max Moala get a chance to run the ball and score a touchdown.
“It’s all good — just share the wealth,” White said, while noting that he also appreciates the blocking they’ve provided.
As for himself, White is pleased to have put together back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time this season.
“I love it. It feels like last year,” said the senior. “It’s nice to put the team on your back or however they want to call it. But it’s fun to go out there, just have a good game and just play well.”
Utah is now 11-0 over the past two seasons when White tops 100 yards rushing.
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