Dave Christensen will look to boost a Utah
offense that averaged 5.5 yards per play in 2013. (Nati Harnik/AP)
After spending the last five seasons as Wyoming's head coach, Dave Christensen opened spring practice last month as Utah's new offensive coordinator. The Utes brought him in after the Cowboys fired Christensen last December following a 5-7 campaign in 2013. Now, he takes over an offense that finished 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring (29.2 points per game) and total offense (5.5 yards per play).
SI.com caught up with Christensen to chat about Utah's attack, the Pac-12's depth and more.
SI: What's the transition been like moving from a head coaching position at Wyoming back to a coordinator at Utah?
Dave Christensen: You know, it's been a great adjustment phase for me. I really had missed the coordinating duties and game-planning and coaching. It's been great to be back on the field and back in the staff room doing the coaching things full-time and not having to deal with the administrative things.
Q&As: Louisville's Todd Grantham l Cincinnati's Hank Hughes
SI: Utah's offense struggled last year. Based on what you've seen both on film and in spring practice, what are you most looking to improve?
DC: We're looking to improve on all areas on a daily basis. We put everything that we're going to use in, and we've done that at a fairly fast pace. Then there's an emphasis of gaining knowledge daily for players of what we're trying to do, from a schematic standpoint, and polishing it up every day. That's really where our focus has been. It's really given us a chance to evaluate our personnel and see where they best fit in what we want to do schematically.
SI: A handful of different coaches have led Utah's offense in recent years, including Dennis Erickson, who now coaches the running backs. What will be different with your approach?
DC: There's some carryover in what they were doing a year ago, and then there are some things that have changed. It's really going to be a combination of things I've done at Missouri, Wyoming and what they've done here in the past. Then we'll kind of blend them together into what I've done in my career as a coordinator. The biggest thing we're trying to work on is our tempo. That's a work in progress, but we're just trying to get our schemes in right now.
SI: Quarterback Travis Wilson's career appeared to be in jeopardy last year after a preexisting medical condition was discovered during a concussion diagnosis. Now he's back at practice. What have you seen from him so far?
DC: He's come out and competed well, and he's actually improved a little bit each day. It's just great to see him healthy enough to come out and practice. The competition's been good at quarterback. We have a number of kids here right now, and then a freshman is coming in in the fall, as well as a transfer from Oklahoma, Kendal Thompson. For that position, the competition will pick up drastically.
SI: Thompson's transfer, in particular, adds some intrigue to the quarterback battle. Do you see the competition extending into fall camp?
DC: Absolutely. We want to compete at every position. There's going to be great competition, and we're not ready to set any jobs in stone yet. We really don't need to know anything on a starter until a week or 10 days before our opening game.
SI: The Utes weren't very productive on the ground last season, and you currently have six running backs splitting reps in spring practice. How have things looked in your backfield?
DC: I really like what i've seen from that position this spring. We've got Bubba Poole back who's got experience. Devontae Booker is a guy who transferred in and has really looked good this spring. Troy McCormick is a kid who redshirted last year, and he has great speed and cutting ability. We've just got some guys there that can play, and I think we're going to have great depth there.
SI: What do you think about the defenses that you'll face each week in the Pac-12?
DC: I think it's a great conference defensively. People don't think we play as great of defense as we actually do in this league -- they'll say it's all offense, but it's not. I think there's a number of teams that have played great defense historically, and it will be a real challenge for us offensively this season.
SI: There might not be a deeper quarterback conference than the Pac-12, especially with the return of Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley. Why do you think that is?
That just happens to be the years they graduated from high school. [Laughs.] But really, there's great talent at that position throughout the Pac-12. Just about everybody has a returner coming back at quarterback it seems like. That's a lot of the reason why there are so many great offensive teams in the league.