Utah football: Christensen wants an up-tempo offense
Utah football • New coordinator stresses need for speed.
Published: December 22, 2013 05:15PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:48PM
image
Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith heads for the end zone on second quarter touchdown run putting the Cowboys up 35-17 over Air Force Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Falcon Stadium in Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Mark Reis) MAGS OUT

If Utah’s offensive coaching staff stays as it is now, the Utes will have three position coaches who have had the offensive coordinator’s role at one point or another.

So how does Dave Christensen, the former Wyoming coach who was announced as Utah’s new offensive coordinator on Friday, see how all those roles and personalities will mix?

Easy: They’re going to follow his lead.

Christensen, who will be Kyle Whittingham’s seventh offensive coordinator, said he has a clear idea of how he wants the offense run.

“We’ll run my offense, coach it the way I want it coached and taught the way I want it taught,” he said. “We’re going to take this in the direction I want it to go, which will be an up-tempo, spread-attack based offense.”

Clearly, the days of co-this and co-that are over for the Utes.

However, Christensen doesn’t anticipate there will be any ego battles when he gets to town and meets with Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson, who shared the coordinating duties last year. With Christensen’s hiring, Johnson will now coach the quarterbacks, Erickson will coach the running backs and Aaron Roderick will remain with the receivers.

Christensen said he knew Erickson because the two shared Idaho ties.

“I think we are all going to work together fine,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to sit down and visit with everybody and get to know each other, but we are going to run my offense.”

Christensen isn’t sure exactly how that offense will look until he evaluates the players, but it will be fast, he said.

“We’ve got to be extremely fast,” he said. “That is what [we] implemented at Missouri and it worked well. You still have to look at your personnel and the strengths and weaknesses and design around them, but we are going to be an up-tempo team.”

Utah fans have heard about the Utes’ desire to be a speedy team before, but it seems every year the Utes are forced to abandon the tempo in favor of a more methodical offense.

Some of the changes have been forced due to injured quarterbacks, but Christensen believes such an offense can still work with the Utes.

“You can’t stick round pegs in square holes,” he said. “You still have to make the offense fit the players you have, but there are a number of things you can do. Speed is the first factor. You need guys who can run and have the ability to catch the football and make people miss in the open field. You need guys who can make yards after contact, those are the important things.”

Unfortunately, Utah’s weakness this year was a lack of speed in those positions. The Utes say they are going to improve in that area through recruiting. If they don’t, Christensen’s job might be harder than he expects.

Already he is faced with the unusual situation of not knowing who his quarterback is with the health status of Travis Wilson still unknown.

Christensen said that uncertainty will be a factor in his evaluations.

“There is a lot to do between now and training camp personnel wise,” he said. “We have to narrow down the scope of what we want to do offensively.”

lwodraska@sltrib.com