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Utah football: Utes name Dave Christensen offensive coordinator

Published December 20, 2013 10:28 pm

College football • Whittingham hires ex-Wyoming coach, while demoting Erickson to running backs coach and Johnson to quarterbacks coach.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dave Christensen characterizes his relationship with coach Kyle Whittingham as a good, longtime solid friendship.

"We talk all the time," he said.

The topic of conversation now and probably for several months to come between the friends will be Utah's offense and how to make it a winner.

Christensen, who was fired as Wyoming's coach on Dec. 1 after a 5-7 season, has been hired by Whittingham to serve as Utah's offensive coordinator.

Dennis Erickson, hired last year as co-offensive coordinator along with Brian Johnson, will coach the running backs, and Johnson will coach the quarterbacks.

Both Erickson and Johnson declined to comment when reached Friday, although Erickson did say the move was a surprise to him.

As for Christensen, the move not only reunites him with Whittingham, a coach he has known since the two coached together at Idaho State in 1989-90, but also gives him an opportunity to coach in the Pac-12.

"Even before I was let go at Wyoming I knew I wanted to coach at the BCS level again," he said. "I want to coach the top-level college players."

As for what changes might be in store for Utah's offense, Christensen said he'll wait until he meets with the players and evaluates them to decide the nuances of the offense, but he does want it to be fast-tempo.

"We'll run the spread, but there are different types of spread offenses," he said. "The more important thing is we want to be extremely fast and explosive."

Utah thought it had that kind of offense this year as the Utes averaged 37 points and 470 yards of offense through the first six games. But a downward spiral began when quarterback Travis Wilson first injured his throwing hand, then was sidelined for the season with an intracranial arterial condition that might be career-ending.

Utah finished the year losing five of its last six games. A lack of playmakers at the skill positions and an inconsistent running game doomed the Utes, who averaged just 21.3 points in their final six games.

Following Utah's season-ending win over Colorado, Whittingham said he would do whatever it took to make the Utes a successful program again.

But few probably thought he would shuffle his offensive staff again after hiring Erickson just last year.

Since he was hired as Utah's head coach in 2005, Whittingham has had Andy Ludwig (2005-08), Dave Schramm (2009, 2010 co-coordinator), Aaron Roderick (2010, passing game coordinator 2012-13), Norm Chow (2011), Johnson (2012, 2013 co-coordinator) and Erickson (2013) serve as either coordinator or co-coordinator.

Whittingham was unavailable for comment Friday, but said in a statement released by the school that Christensen is an "innovative coach."

"We feel fortunate he was available and interested in joining our program and he will be a great fit with our staff," Whittingham said.

"We want an explosive offense, and that's been a trademark of Dave's throughout his career as an offensive coordinator."

Christensen was known for his no-huddle, spread offenses at Missouri, with his 2007 offense averaging 39.9 points a game and his 2008 offense averaging 42.2 points.

Christensen plans to bring a similar offense to Utah after he evaluates Utah's strengths and weaknesses. Christensen, who was contacted a week ago by Whittingham about possibly joining Utah's staff, will begin his new role after the holidays.

"I've always wanted to get back to the Pac-12," he said. "I've played and coached in that league and I have great respect for Kyle, and this was a no-brainer for me. I'm excited about the opportunity."

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Offense under Whittingham

Scoring

Year Average Rank

2013 29.2 65th

2012 26.7 73rd

2011 25.0 74th

2010 33.1 23rd

2009 29.9 34th

2008 36.9 15th

2007 26.2 68th

2006 27.9 33rd

2005 30.0 36th

Yards

Year Average Rank

2013 396.6 76th

2012 324.42 105th

2011 310.9 109th

2010 389.0 57th

2009 389.5 54th

2008 400.9 35th

2007 369.9 79th

2006 368.4 41st

2005 473.0 12th —

Dave Christensen file

Playing career

1980-82 • Washington

Coaching Career

1983 • Western Washington (Running backs)

1988 • Washington (Offensive line)

1989-90 • Idaho State (Offensive line,tight ends/running backs)

1990-91 • Toledo (Offensive line)

1992-96 • Toledo (Offensive coordinator)

1997-2008 • Missouri (Offensive coordinator)

2009-2013 • Wyoming (Head coach, 27-35)