Brian Johnson Interview, Feb 27, 2014

Mississippi State quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page.

You didn't start on your high school team until you were a senior due to an upperclassman being ahead of you. But Dan Mullen saw something in you that maybe others didn't. And how well you did at Utah proved him right. What did he say that he saw in you in high school?
"Coach Mullen came to our spring practice. I imagine that he saw something that he liked and we then built a relationship from there. It's been 11 years later and it's nice to come back full circle."

But what did he say he liked about you? He didn't really have anything to go by other than the spring practice.
"I think a couple of things that he saw was my accuracy and being able to process information. One of the things that he looks for is accuracy. Him coming out to our practice and seeing how we operate, seeing how we manage the practice and how we organize the practice, I think that was something that really caught his eye. I remember him coming back in the fall and watching me play and I just happened to have the best three quarters of my life. I think he kind of knew it when he saw me that that was what they were looking for. And I was fortunate to receive a scholarship offer."

You started you freshman season at Utah as a 17-year-old. That is really young to be a starter in college, much less the starting quarterback. How intimidating was that for you, or was it intimidating?
"It wasn't really intimidating because I had played with older guys my entire life. I always played a grade above my peers, so I was used to it by that point. Just being able to go out there and compete in a game that I loved, it was a huge blessing for me."

You did so well in the spread when you were at Utah. Do you feel like that offense is almost the perfect fit for you as a player and as a coach?
"Yeah, I think it was a really good fit because it utilized my particular skill set in a unique way. So much of football is predicated on quarterback play. If you have a quarterback that is on, then you have a chance. I think putting players in positions where they can make plays is a huge positive."

Is recognition of the type defense a team is in a really important part of being a good quarterback in the spread?
"Absolutely. The main thing is being able to process information. In the spread offense a lot is put on the quarterback being able to make superior, spontaneous decisions. You have to be able to process that information, make the correct decision whether it is in the run game where you are reading somebody or in the passing game where you are going through a coverage and go through a read."

And you did that really well as a 17-year-old starting quarterback at Utah. Does that surprise you looking back on it?
"I was just out there doing my thing. And it ended up paying off. But I think it goes back to always playing up as a young child and being around older guys."

How much will it help you at Mississippi State due to being recruited by Dan Mullen in high school and playing for him in college?
"The main thing is the base of my foundation of offensive football kind of stems from Dan. He gave me my opportunity to play college football. A lot of the individual techniques and philosophies stem from that tree. And that is extremely important to me. And since I have been on my own, I have been around some great offensive minds whether it is Dennis Erickson or Norm Child and people like that. I have taken things from them as well."

What are your thoughts about MSU starting quarterback Dak Prescott?
"From the two weeks that I have been around him I have been extremely impressed. I love everyting that I have seen from him. Obviously, I have watched all of the tape. While he's a great football player, he may be an even better young man. I don't think you could ask to coach a better young man. He's everything you would want from a leadership standpoint, from a competitive nature standpoint, an athletic standpoint. He has the tools to be special. Our job is to get all of that out of him and help him reach his full potential. ."

I never saw you play football but are there some similarities between you and Dak as a quarterback?
"He is a lot different from me from the physical standpoint. But from the mental standpoint there are definitely similarities such as understanding the game, the defenses, and processing the information."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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