Johnson leaving Utes for Mississippi State

As the Utes prepare with yet another offensive coordinator for their upcoming 2014 campaign, they will be doing so without someone who has been in the Utah program all but one season since 2004.

Only one word comes to mind when you think of Utah's offense over the past several years — inconsistent, not only for the on-field results, but the people on the sidelines wearing the headsets as well.

As the Utes prepare with yet another offensive coordinator for their upcoming 2014 campaign, they will be doing so without someone who has been in the Utah program all but one season since 2004.

Reports indicated late last week that Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson will be leaving the Utes to take his coaching talents to Mississippi State.

Johnson confirmed those reports with a tweet sent out on his personal account Monday morning, @BDJohnson3.

"Thank you for all of the kind words. Utah will always have a special place in my heart," Johnson said. "Looking forward to a new opportunity #HailState."

"We wish Brian all the best in his new position," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement released Monday afternoon. "Brian has been a major contributor to the Utah football program as a player and a coach for many years."

Johnson will become the quarterbacks coach for the Bulldogs, getting the opportunity to work under a former mentor, one he had while in his early playing career at the University of Utah — Dan Mullen.

Mullen came to Utah for a short stint as quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer from 2003-04 and was vital in the recruitment and development of the young 16-year-old Johnson.

Mullen eventually left for Florida to become Meyer's offensive coordinator, while Johnson went on to become the winningest quarterback in Utah football history, capping his senior season with a dominant 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Johnson was voted MVP in the game.

After his playing career was over, Johnson returned to the Utes in 2010 as a quarterbacks coach. Just two years later, Johnson became the youngest FBS offensive coordinator in the country (24).

However, an inconsistent offense and Utah missing a bowl game for the first time since 2002 prompted Utah to hire Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator just one season later, which some might have seen as a demotion for Johnson.

Then in December, after a disappointing 5-7 2013 campaign and the Utes' second straight season missing a bowl game, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham announced the hiring of former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen as offensive coordinator, stripping the co-coordinator titles from Johnson and Erickson.

Was Johnson promoted too early to be an offensive coordinator? Probably. Was he entirely to blame for Utah's offensive woes over the past few years? Not at all.

Both years that Johnson was either offensive coordinator or co-coordinator, the Utes were plagued by injuries at quarterback. Three quarterbacks were used in 2012 (Jordan Wynn, Jon Hays and Travis Wilson) while two were used in 2013 (Wilson and Adam Schulz). In fact, the last time a quarterback started and finished an entire season for the Utes was Johnson back in 2008.

Perhaps the biggest loss to the Utes won't be seen on the field, but what Johnson did as a recruiter, making inroads in the state of Louisiana and Southern California. Johnson was influential in the Utes signing Donovan Isom in the 2014 class, a quarterback out of the state of Louisiana who threw for 33 touchdowns and just two interceptions while leading his team to the state semifinals.

Whittingham has not announced a timetable for replacing Johnson, but speculation is that former Utah Blaze quarterback Jason Gesser is a possible candidate to replace Johnson as quarterbacks coach. Gesser was the quarterbacks coach at Wyoming under Dave Christensen.

Robert Jackson is the cross platform sports and weather producer for ksl.com and KSL-TV. Jackson has covered the Utes for KSL since 2008. You can catch him and co-host Brian Swinney Tuesdays & Thursdays from 7-9 PM on the Ute Sports Report 1320 KFAN.

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