Utah football: A healing Dennis Erickson hopes to mend Utes’ offense
By Lya Wodraska
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 20 2013 05:08PM
Dennis Erickson said he was determined to walk onto Utah’s campus without the aid of a cane even though he had hip replacement surgery less than a week ago.
"I didn’t want to send that message to the players," he said Wednesday during his introductory news conference at Utah.
Instead, Utah’s recently hired co-offensive coordinator has another message for Utah’s players and fans: He hopes to help the Utes craft an invigorated, up-tempo offense that will look far from hobbled.
The 65-year-old Erickson said he hasn’t familiarized himself with all of Utah’s players and their abilities, but does know the Utes have to play a more up-tempo style offense than they did a year ago.
The Utes averaged just 66.4 plays a game last year and ranked last or near it in the league in the major offensive categories.
Erickson noted the top offenses all averaged about 75 to 80 plays a game and said he envisions the Utes using a lot of no-huddle schemes to get close to that average.
Oregon, which averaged 49.5 points a game, was effective even when using a few limited plays because of such a tempo, he said.
"That is how the game is played and how we are planning on doing it," he said.
Just how the Utes will increase their productiveness is still being determined, Erickson said.
The former Arizona State coach is known for his aggressive, trend-setting one-back offense, but Erickson said he and the other offensive coaches are continuing to discuss the best way to use Utah’s personnel.
"Everyone talks about the spread offense, but there are so many different kinds of ways to do it," he said.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Erickson would have the final say when it came to calling the shots with the offense, but Erickson went out of his way Wednesday to emphasize that coaching the Utes’ offense would be a group effort.
He referred to Brian Johnson, Utah’s former quarterbacks coach who was promoted to offensive coordinator for 2012, as a rising "superstar" in the coaching profession.
"You don’t do the things he does as a competitor and a player and not transfer it over to coaching," he said. "We’ve spent a lot of time together, and hopefully he’ll learn from me because I will learn from him. As a young coach, I don’t ever think you don’t have something to learn or as an old coach I don’t think you don’t have something to learn."
Erickson compared Utah quarterback Travis Wilson to former ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was picked by Denver in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"He can run," he said. "But you don’t have to be the greatest runner in the world to be effective."
That might be true, but as Erickson and Utah fans surely know, it does pay to be healthy — or at least cane-free.