The rumors started leaking last night: 24-year-old quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson (BJ) would be promoted to offensive coordinator for the University of Utah football.
It was one of those things that was so crazy that it could only be true.
Since the legendary Norm Chow left to take the head job at Hawaii, there has been much rumor and speculation among rabid Ute fans about who would take his job. There were mainly three theories:
1) Promote Aaron Roderick who had already served as OC prior to Chow's arrival. (The team won 10 games that year, but lost to the three good teams they played).
2) Grab someone from the NFL ranks. (The Utes had already begun distancing themselves from the "spread option" offense that brought so much success since Urban Meyer was coach, and started trending toward a "pro style" offense which Norm Chow was tasked with installing).
3) Look outside the Ute program but among the college ranks. (Several names were theorized, and one interview with BYU's former HC Gary Crowton had been confirmed).
I figured there was an 80% chance it would be one of the first two. To me, option one was the safe pick, option two was the more progressive pick.
In my wildest dreams (worst nightmares?) I never imagined head coach Kyle Whittingham would leapfrog Roderick with a younger assistant on staff. Whether BJ was the better man for the job or not, I just thought that conventional wisdom, politics, and protocol dictated that you give the job to the guy with more experience and tenure if you keep the hire in-house.
Now, don't get me wrong: I, like many other Ute fans, have had my eye on BJ and his talent, hard work, and knowledge for the game since he came in as a 17-year old freshman in 2004. The thought that he would someday be a head coach, let alone offensive coordinator, was a bygone notion. Whether he achieved that status at the U of U or not, it was still a matter of "when," not "if." And my personal thought is that he'd get there at a relatively young age. But this is not quite what I had in mind.
On a semi-interesting side note, there is another young guy on staff, Morgan Scalley, who I thought was the heir apparent of the Ute program if there was one already on staff. While still young, he still has about four years experience on BJ as a coaching staff member. Morgan has been in charge of recruiting for a few years now, is a former Ute player, a local kid from Salt Lake, and the son of former Ute football player. He seemed like the natural legacy hire making his way up. Even then, I didn't see that happening for several years. But now, with this promotion, Johnson clearly moves ahead of the class in being prepped for taking the reins as HC some day. The truth is, both guys are still on a path where I could see either take that spot 10-15 years from now. But before, I used to imagine Whittingham retiring, Scalley probably serving as DC by then, getting promoted, and having BJ be his OC (if he didn't have that post already). Now, if things work out for Brian, I see the shoes on the other feet with Morgan serving as Johnson's DC.
But, I'm getting WAY ahead of myself.
There is no guarantee that BJ succeeds. In fact, I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I think the odds are against him. I'm not saying I don't believe he can do it, but rather the road and its hurdles are probably bigger for him than they would be for more experienced guys coming in.
I see this as a promotion with only polarizing potential. It's either a grand slam, or a spectacular swing-and-a-miss that could significantly set the program back. I'm desperately hoping for the former for Brian's sake and for the sake of my alma mater.