Johnson Confirmed As Quarterbacks Coach

Mississippi State made official what has been anticipated since the position came open weeks ago, with the hiring of Utah's Brian Johnson to coach Bulldog quarterbacks.

Along with the addition, Coach Dan Mullen confirmed that offensive line coach John Hevesy and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales will now serves as the co-coordinators on offense. Also, running backs coach Greg Knox will oversee special teams.

"I've known Brian since I recruited him at Utah," Mullen said. "He is an excellent fit to our staff with his experience and knowledge of the quarterback position. Along with Brian's addition, Billy and John will continue to develop our offense, which was the most explosive in school history last season. Greg is well respected and has over 20 years of coaching experience that will enhance our special teams production. We are thrilled about the staff we have in place. The 2014 season promises to be an exciting one for our team and fans."

Johnson, 26, fills the staff slot made available when five-year quarterbacks coach Les Koenning accepted an offer from his alma mater to become receivers coach at Texas. This newest member of Mullen's staff steps into a most promising position for 2014, as he will pick-up the mentoring of junior quarterback Dak Prescott, sophomore Damian Williams, and early-enrolled freshman Nick Fitzgerald when spring practices open in March.

Koenning was listed as offensive coordinator and did indeed fill that role in game-planning and practicing, and worked games from the press box. As far as sideline decisions though, Mullen made clear last week "I called the plays for us. I think I called all the plays last year. I spent a lot of time with the quarterbacks." Who in-turn had a large degree of responsibility themselves with what play was actually snapped.

Regardless, since 2009 quarterbacks under Mullen/Koenning control have posted the top-four career marks in passing percentage already.

This is not the first dual coordinators approach that Mullen has used at Mississippi State. During his first two seasons Mullen operated with coordinators for the running game (Koenning) and passing game (then-receivers coach Mark Hudspeth). This was not the same general approach as in 2011-12 when there were two coordinators on defense as one of them was overall director with a co-coordinator assisting.

A native of Baytown, Texas, Johnson is one of Mullen's favorite recruits in two decades of coaching around the country. At Utah, Mullen identified the Texas prospect and signed him at age 16 based on the one season as a full-time starter. Johnson had played behind another college recruit as a junior and it prepared him well for Utah where he backed up Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith in 2004.

The winningest quarterback in Utah history, Johnson started the 2005 season; then redshirted in 2006 after a December '05 knee surgery. He also had to come back from a shoulder injury in 2007, but as a senior he directed the Utes to a 13-0 season with a rout of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He was named Bowl Most Valuable Player, and a year later he was featured on Playstation's NCAA Football 10 edition.

After taking a very brief fling with the UFL he came back to campus as a 23-year-old quarterbacks coach, and two years later he was named offensive coordinator. He shared the coordinator's post last fall while keeping quarterbacks. His primary recruiting areas have been in Los Angeles and New Orleans. He holds a 2008 mass communications degree from Utah.

This hiring completes the nine-man field coaching staff for 2014. For his Mississippi State tenure Mullen has kept his offensive staff largely intact. Hevesy, Knox, and tight ends coach are all beginning their sixth seasons together on Mullen's staff. Gonzales was hired in January 2013 to coach receivers and with excellent results.

The defensive staff returns from last season, and better-compensated as well. Coordinator Geoff Collins signed a two-year extension on January 20, with a net $1.2 million contract as reward for his work as the overall coordinator and linebackers coach in 2013. He will share defensive duties with line coach David Turner for a second season, sixth-year safeties coach Tony Hughes, and second-year cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend.

Spring practices are tentatively set to begin March 18/19.

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