SALT LAKE CITY — The latest stop on Dennis Erickson’s coaching tour of the Pac-12 brings him to Utah as co-offensive coordinator, where his marching orders are simple: help the Utes score more touchdowns.
The 65-year-old Erickson, who won two national titles as Miami coach and has been a head coach at three Pac-12 schools, intends to implement an up-tempo offense that is trending throughout college football.
“If you look at probably the top 10 offenses in college football, all of them run 75, 80 plays,” Erickson said at a news conference Wednesday. “Well, you can’t run 75, 80 plays if you’re in the huddle.”
Two weeks removed from hip-replacement surgery, Erickson has no desire to be a head coach again but looks forward to helping Utah get to the next level. Erickson still has plenty of ties to Miami but called the West his home after serving as head coach at Washington State (1987-88), Oregon State (1999-2002) and Arizona State (2007-11).
He was let go by Arizona State after the ‘11 season.
Asked if there is extra motivation playing the Sun Devils on Nov. 9, Erickson quipped, “Do I have to tell the truth?”
The stats also tell the truth about Utah’s offense over the past two years since joining the Pac-12. The Utes have averaged 25.9 points a game last season, a long way from the 49.6 Oregon put up in 2012. The Utes were 105th in the nation in total offense (324.42 yards), and last in the Pac-12 in passing as they finished 5-7.
There also were questions about offensive coordinator Brian Johnson’s play-calling last year after Norm Chow left to be Hawaii’s head coach.
Whittingham went after Erickson, who will implement the no-huddle game into his one-back, shotgun spread formations. But going no-huddle is easier said than done.
“There’s a lot a communication things . you’ve got to know what you want to do,” Erickson said.
Utah averaged about 66 plays a game last year as it struggled through quarterback changes brought on in part by injuries.
“Four or five years ago, the University of Utah was a very good offense,” Erickson said. “They had a quarterback that was healthy, too.”
He compared Utah starter Travis Wilson, who will be a sophomore, to former ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler because of his size and mobility in the pocket.
Osweiler was drafted by Denver in the second round of last year’s NFL draft.
Other than Wilson, Erickson acknowledges he is still learning Utah’s personnel, and how it might best fit into packages.
He also acknowledged he initially wasn’t even sure he wanted to get back into coaching when Whittingham approached him.
But after thinking about it, he said, it was a great opportunity.
It didn’t make getting to Utah easy after hip-replacement surgery two weeks ago.
“I told my wife, ‘I’m not going to the U of U with a cane,’ ” he said. “I’m not sending that message to those players. If I have to crawl, I’ll crawl.”
He managed just fine Wednesday.
“I know I’m happy coaching here,” Erickson said, sporting a Utah bright red sweater. “I don’t miss being a head football coach at all, so I could see myself being here the rest of my career, which could be three years, four years, two years, probably not 10 years. I’m just going to take it a day at a time, see how I can help make this program successful.”