February 27, 2014 4:22:12 PM
STARKVILLE -- Dan Mullen is figuratively putting the band back together with his coaching staff and the final piece of that collaboration was hiring Brian Johnson to coach the quarterbacks.
Johnson, who turned 27 years old just 11 days ago, was identified as the leading candidate to fill the MSU coaching staff vacancy left when Les Koenning left Starkville to become the new wide receivers coach at Texas on Jan. 15.
"I've known Brian since I recruited him at Utah, and he is an excellent fit to our staff with his experience and knowledge of the quarterback position," Mullen said in a university release.
Johnson nearly immediately jumped at the chance to work with two coaches that recruited him to Utah out of high school in Mullen and MSU wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales.
"That was huge," Johnson said. "I can't say enough about those guys and what I've learned from those guys over the years. Having that relationship with them is something that was extremely inviting and enticing. The success that they've had in this program, the job that Coach Mullen has done over the last 5 years has been outstanding. I just wanted to be a part of that. It felt like it would be a great opportunity for me to make a move."
As a freshman in 2004, Johnson saw action in ten games as back-up to Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith. However, the MSU coach never got to coach Johnson as a starting quarterback as Urban Meyer brought Mullen from Utah to Florida in that 2004 offseason.
"I'm extremely grateful to those guys for giving me my opportunity in college football," Johnson said. "It's nice to have that come full circle and get a chance to work for Coach Mullen, Gonzales and Hevesy and be a part of that staff. From a philosophical standpoint, my offensive philosophy derives from what I learned from those guys early on at Utah in my career."
Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Utes in a 31-17 upset win against Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Johnson led then No. 7 Utah with 336 passing yards and three passing touchdowns and was named the 2009 Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player.
"I've seen a SEC defense firsthand with my last game being against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl," Johnson said. "It's a very, very talented league. It's a very well-coached league. That's what stands out when you look at the rest of college football. Guys are super talented and they're coached super well."
I'll have more in Friday's edition of The Dispatch on Johnson's new opportunity at MSU.
Johnson, Utah's winningest quarterback in history with a 26-7 record, became the youngest offensive coordinator in the Football Bowl Subdivision when coach Kyle Whittingham appointed the then 24-year-old to the position in 2011. Johnson said getting the opportunity to work in a place that wasn't necessarily in his immediate comfort level was actually attractive to him to prove his can move forward in this profession.
"Change is sometimes good for everybody," Johnson said. "Often times people get stuck in their rhythm of doing things and it can hinder development in our daily lives. I think one of the most important things we can in our profession is to grow and develop and not get complacent in order to search for a better way of doing things."
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