That's a Bingo!: Utah's Offensive Fix Is Closer To Home Than You Think
Call it a consultant, if you may.
That's what the Washington Redskins called it when they brought in Sherman Lewis to call the offensive plays for their stagnant and molassed offense.
Dear coach Kyle Whittingham, this is your shot to build for the future.
Take a risk.
A la Lewis—a guy that was, at the time, calling bingo games regularly at a senior center in the greater Detroit area—the No. 16 Utes have a guy waiting in the wings to fix all this offensive buffoonery.
And after all, you certainly do know this guy.
Former Utah quarterback and all-time wins leader, Brian Johnson is a smart dude. Yeah, he just graduated from college a couple years ago, and yeah, he led his team in his memorable senior season to a 13-0 record as his Utes went all Tasmanian Devil on Nick Saban's Alabama team in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
No stranger to talent and poise, Saban called Johnson: "The best quarterback we faced."
Remember who the Crimson Tide faced in the SEC Championship game? Oh, yeah. That guy.
Johnson's offensive repertoire is more than offensive skill, it's of unadulterated knowledge and mastery on how to run a spread offense team.
He took his classes. He studied. He aced the tests, ultimately reveling in what was a middle-fingered salute to the national pundits who had never really given Utah a chance since day one.
He graduated early to enroll at the U in 2004. A 17-year-old attached at the hip of the original BCS-buster himself, Alex Smith and then coach Urban Meyer.
Johnson took it all in, obviously. He had to. 2004 was chock-full of sombreros and fiestas and a giant zero in the loss column.
His career speaks for itself.
As a freshman he electrified offensively, throwing and dashing around defenses. Throughout his storied career, he had his ups, he had his downs.
The injury bug bit—hard. More than once. Tearing his ACL and working so hard to come back for the season-opener at Corvallis, Ore., in 2007.
He got leveled and his shoulder was separated.
Still, he watched, he donned a headset. He suffered through the sufferable games of Tommy Grady. He was QB-1 on the sidelines, just not the field.
Throughout all of this, his proficiency and dexterity of the Utah offense proved to be his best class at the U.
Once again, ace on the report card.
Virtuoso of the five-wide. Maestro of the trips-left. He even played some receiver thanks to Matt Asiata bursting onto the scene.
Anyone who is familiar the program knows Brian Johnson. How can't they?
He stuck it to the doubters in what was arguably the most-improbable win in school history down to visiting Oregon State eight points with less than two minutes to tick off.
I recall him saying post-game: "Man, I knew they were about to miss a show."
The guy is more than a former college football player. He's a quarterback. He knows the offense. He knows the defense.
He checks down. Audibles the line left. Audibles the line right. Hot routes a'plenty and away you'd go with Johnson at the helm.
Former offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig didn't bother calling plays down to signal to Johnson in 2008. Johnson called all the plays himself in the two-minute offense.
There was Oregon State. There was TCU. There was BYU. There was Tide, rolling down the hill.
Whittingham mentioned he had so much faith in his fifth-year quarterback that he didn't need to worry about the job getting done. He knew he'd do it.
So, why not?
Why not Johnson. He wasn't in some old folks home calling bingo numbers like Lewis, who had been out of football for five some-odd years.
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm was temporarily relieved of his play-calling duties last week as Whittingham said it was nice to have the fiery Schramm back on the sidelines to work with the quarterbacks—rather than waste what we could presume to be a boatload of expletives in the box on the sixth-floor of Rice Eccles Stadium.
Schramm is in his rookie year as a coordinator. The guy is a more-than-admirable offensive mind. He is an outstanding recruiter and knows how to coach players.
But Schramm needs to be in the other guys' face. That's who he is.
Ludwig was the ghost of Christmas past.
Johnson could be anything he wants to be. He could be the "offensive consultant" and come in and help Whittingham, Schramm and receivers coach Aaron Roderick with play-calling.
He's no stranger to it. He's no stranger to the system. And he's fresh.
For those that covered the Utah football beat or who are fairly familiar with it, always knew that Johnson would be an ideal coach in the near future.
He's said it once or twice, too.
It hasn't reached desperation status. Hardly, actually. Utah is 8-1, highly-ranked again and winning due to defense and timely offense.
All I can say is, how can it hurt?
Bringing on Louie Sakoda to help the newbies punt and kick was just fine, so why not BJ?
Better now than in the near future when he's scooped up by some other program or team and flourishes and all Utah could do was kick the curb, shake their heads and wish they would've taken a chance on a kid that passed all his exams.
He can only go up from here and why not give it a shot? An offensive crackerjack, friendly and cool as the other side of the pillow in pressure-cooker situations, Johnson should be getting a phone call in the very near future.
If not this season, undoubtedly once the season is over.
"Now calling: BJ, No. 3. BJ, No. 3."
Photo by: Ty Cobb
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