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Pac-12: Utah's Whittingham still seeking offensive success

First Published Jan 07 2014 12:01PM      Last Updated Jan 07 2014 12:05 pm

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dave Christensen, Utah's newest offensive coordinator is introduced during a press conference at the University of Utah football practice facility on Tuesday, Jan. 7. 2014, as coach Kyle Whittingham listens in.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham introduced former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen as his offensive coordinator Tuesday, while making a point not to "bash" the current staff members who formerly held that title.

During the news conference in the Utes' football complex, Whittingham also said, "We've still got to get better. I don't think anybody in this building would disagree with that."

Christensen's spread offense is "a great fit schematically" with what Utah is already doing, Whittingham said, adding that his motivation was to hire the best person available and give him the proper level of responsibility, regardless of the perception of continual change of coordinators.

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p class="TEXT_w_Indent">Whittingham had a staff opening after special teams/tight ends coach Jay Hill became Weber State's head coach. That vacancy occurred shortly after Christensen was fired at Wyoming after five seasons.

The most recent impression of Christensen's offense came in a 35-7 loss at Utah State. Christensen cited significant injuries to the offensive line by the season's end. "When we were healthy, we were pretty decent," he said, noting how the Cowboys produced 34 points and 602 yards in a season-opening loss at Nebraska.

In 2014, Christensen will become Utah's sixth play-caller since Andy Ludwig's departure after the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The previous list includes Dave Schramm, Aaron Roderick, Norm Chow, Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Of those five, only Chow - who became Hawaii's head coach - was never demoted by Whittingham.

The Utes improved slightly in 2013 under Erickson's direction, but ranked only 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense. That's why Whittingham was willing to make a second demotion in two seasons, after Johnson was the coordinator in 2012. Erickson called the plays this past season, when he and Johnson were labeled co-coordinators.

Their roles now iare coaching the running backs and the quarterbacks, respectively. Whittingham said Erickson told him, "I don't need titles."

Asked about the findings of his self-study of the program after another 5-7 season ended six weeks ago, Whittingham said, "Don't turn the ball over and take it away."

The Utes ranked 11th in the conference with a minus-9 turnover ratio, with 25 turnovers and 16 takeaways - including only three interceptions.

The relationship between Whittingham and Christensen dates to the early 1990s at Idaho State. Utah opens the 2014 season Aug. 28 against Idaho State.

 

 

 

 

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