Utah Utes football: Another whistle stop for Dennis Erickson
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The nomad wore some impressive bling — compliments of the Miami Hurricanes — and a red Utah wind shirt.
“Two years ago,” Dennis Erickson said at a press conference on Wednesday, “I said I was never gonna do one of these anymore. It was not by my choice, either.”
The man was fired from his last job, at Arizona State, ending yet another chapter in his voluminous career. But who knows how many more press conferences there are for the Utes’ new co-offensive coordinator? A half dozen? Ten? He has been the head coach at five Division I universities and two NFL teams, not to mention two times at Idaho. Three of his head coaching gigs were at Pac-12 schools.
Erickson has pulled up stakes more times than P.T. Barnum. Speaking of circuses, want to know to where Erickson has maintained the strongest ties after working at nine schools? Miami, that infamous collection of rock stars/bad boys that won him two national championship rings, including the one he wore on Wednesday.
“People talk about the University of Miami and all the bad things,” he said. “They don’t talk about the good things; they don’t know the players all the things people don’t realize. It was Miami against everybody else in the world — and I’m sure we created some of that ourselves.”
Erickson’s point was that true closeness has a lot to do with winning. He said he spoke with ex-Hurricane Warren Sapp last week. Ray Lewis, the much-celebrated Baltimore Ravens linebacker, is also on Erickson’s regular contact list.
“Probably the most famous was 'The Rock (Dwayne Johnson),'” he continued. “I’m not sure it’s because of being a football player, but he’s a heck of a movie star.”
Whether he’s a heck of another actor is a different conversation.
Suffice it to say he does a great death stare.
If there was an overriding theme at Erickson’s introductory press conference, though, it wasn’t film reviews. It was his optimism about the Utes. He thinks they have potential to win the Pac-12.
“I look at winning programs around the country and, regardless of when or where or how they won, that’s how those teams were — they were together. And I see that here,” he said.
Laughable as that seems for a team that has won only seven conference games in two years, Erickson does know what it takes. He coached Washington State to its first bowl win since 1916. He took a depleted Oregon State to its first winning season in 29 years and followed with an 11-1 season in which he nearly got to the national championship game.
Given time, it seems he could improve Utah’s offense. But putting down roots has never been his strong suit. How long will he stay in Salt Lake?
“I don’t know, what’s the lifespan of a guy?” the 65-year-old coach said rhetorically. “I can’t give you a time. I don’t know my timetable, period. But I know I’m happy here.”
If Erickson is vague about his plans, it should be no surprise. Like Larry Brown, his wandering basketball counterpart, he has often stayed just long enough to loosen his necktie. Some jobs — like his one-year stay at Wyoming — he left on his own. Others, such as Arizona State and NFL forays in Seattle and San Francisco, he was fired.
“Having been in this league at a lot of difference places, I guess you could say in another hundred years, I’d probably have coached them all,” he said. “But I don’t think I’m going to be able to make that happen.”
You never know. He has worn Washington State silver, Arizona State gold and Oregon State orange. He remarked how he likes the way he looks in red. His plan is to bring an up-tempo attack to Utah. His mandate from head coach Kyle Whittingham: “Score touchdowns.”
Whether that will happen often enough is debatable. Erickson’s record his last four years at ASU was 21-28. Meanwhile, last season’s Utes couldn’t bribe their way into the end zone. Erickson blamed much of that on repeated quarterback injuries, calling them “unbelievable” and likeneing Utah’s Travis Wilson to former Arizona State signal-caller Brock Osweiler.
So it went. Except for the championship ring Erickson wore, it was just like any other introductory press conference. After a session of question and answers, he left through the nearest door. Media were told there would be no one-on-ones with Erickson because he was recovering from hip surgery. He couldn’t be blamed for that.
On the other hand, it may have been just another way for Erickson to stay on the move.
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