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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson at the Utes' practice, Thursday, August 8, 2013.
Brian Johnson drawn by ‘new experience’ at Mississippi State

Brian Johnson says life is treating him well.

He was pleased with the progress of Mississippi State’s quarterbacks during spring ball.

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He’s coaching in the nation’s most prestigious conference.

His wife is due soon with a baby girl.

If he harbors sour feelings about his demotions at Utah from offensive coordinator to co-coordinator to quarterbacks coach, he’s keeping them to himself.

"It’s a business," Johnson said, asked about Dave Christensen’s hiring and Johnson’s subsequent move to Starkville. Friday’s phone conversation was the first time we’ve been able to connect with him since he left.

"Obviously it’s Coach Whittingham’s job to do what he feels is best for his program," he said. "He’s been like a father to me. He’s a guy that I have the utmost respect for in all aspects of life. From the time I was 18 years old to the time I was 26 years old, he’s done nothing but have my back."

The Bulldogs are led by a father figure who goes back even further with Johnson. When Dan Mullen was quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer at Utah, he recruited and offered the unheralded two-star from Baytown, Texas.

"He was the reason that I ended up in Utah," Johnson said. "He took a chance on me."

They’ve stayed in touch throughout Johnson’s playing and coaching career, and "he’s always been a guy that has been a really good mentor to me, one of many guys who has taken the time out to make sure I’m on the right track."

Johnson said it wasn’t easy to leave Utah, where the 27-year-old had spent his entire adult life, but, "It was a good chance to gain some new experience in my life."

He’ll be back, he said, to visit the family of his wife, Ashley, and maybe to sneak in some tee times at Old Mill.

"I can’t say enough great things about the place," he said. "I learned a lot of lessons along the way. I was grateful for every opportunity that I had there."

— Matthew Piper

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper



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