GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s not often a college football coach leaves behind a coordinator job to voluntarily become a position coach, but Brian Johnson has done it twice now in his young career.
Both times to realign with Dan Mullen, who coached him in college at Utah and has remained close with him throughout his rise in the profession.
Johnson left his coordinator gig at Utah to become Mullen’s quarterbacks coach at Mississippi State from 2014-16, and after spending last season as the offensive coordinator at Houston, Johnson accepted the position of QBs coach at Florida soon after Mullen was hired here this offseason.
“Coach Mullen and I have always had a great relationship, obviously. I’ve known him since I was 16 years old. He recruited me to go play quarterback at the University of Utah. We’ve constantly kept in communication,” Johnson said. “And when he got that opportunity to come here, he called me and I was really, really excited and happy for him. I’m excited to be here. It’s a great program with great tradition and a very, very rich history. We’re excited about what we can come in and get done.”
WATCH: Florida quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson meets with media
Posted by Florida Gators – SEC Country on Thursday, February 22, 2018
Mullen has aligned himself with a loyal and trusted offensive assistants throughout his own rise up the coaching ranks. Co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy have mostly been with him since they all joined Urban Meyer’s staff at Bowling Green in 2001. And running backs coach Greg Knox spent all nine seasons with him at Mississippi State before following him to Gainesville as well.
Mullen’s relationship with Johnson has another layer to it, though. As Johnson said, he was just a high school prospect when the two first met.
“It was my senior year and he came in to watch us play, I think the second or third game. We played Pasadena Dobie High School,” said Johnson, who grew up in Texas. “It wasn’t a contact period, it was an evaluation period. So I was getting ready to come in to the field house for pregame and he stopped in to see our coach and myself. We had talked on the phone before, but you can’t talk to the coaches at that time, so I just shook his hand and said hello.
“I remember going out to the game that night, we played really well and won and they called and offered me that Monday after he got back into Salt Lake and I committed that December.”
Mullen was the QBs coach at Utah when Johnson was a freshman backup to future No. 1 NFL draft pick Alex Smith, before Mullen, Gonzales and Hevesy followed Meyer to Florida.
Johnson would take over as the Utes starter the next three seasons, passing for 7,853 yards, 57 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in his time there while memorably leading Utah to an upset win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to cap an undefeated 2008 season.
Johnson got into coaching soon thereafter, becoming the QBs coach at Utah in 2010 and later rising up to co-OC and then OC.
While his time playing under Mullen was short, the connection endured nonetheless.
“To me the relationship that we had always kind of went way beyond football so we’ve always kept in touch and he’s somebody that I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for and admired the way he’s handled everything throughout his career,” Johnson said. “And he’s definitely been one of my mentors getting into this profession. Like I said, I’ve known him pretty much half my life now so for me it was an easy decision to come back and help and hopefully be a part of something really special.”
Johnson says what makes Mullen a renowned developer of quarterbacks is his ability to adapt to different skill sets and adjust to the talents of his QBs.
And Johnson now shares that responsibility at Florida.
While Mullen has had starting QBs with a variety of styles, his best success has come with big, physical, dual-threat quarterbacks.
The Gators have only one true dual-threat QB on the roster this year in freshman early enrollee Emory Jones, while redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks showed some mobility and athleticism as the starter last year and Kyle Trask and Jake Allen remain untested to this point in their collegiate careers.
“I think that’s something that sometimes goes unnoticed. I think when you are talking about just development in terms of the quarterback position, the ability to coach different guys and coach to their strengths and utilize their strengths and put them in a position to be successful, I think that is what you’re looking for,” he said.
The post New Gators QBs coach Brian Johnson explains why he left coordinator job to rejoin Dan Mullen appeared first on SEC Country.
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