Former Utah QB Brian Johnson new OC for Florida Gators

Ryan Kostecka

Brian Johnson's journey from player to coach has come full circle.

Back in 2003 when he was a high school senior, Dan Mullen recruited Johnson to the University of Utah as a quarterback. Eventually Johnson committed to the Utes and underwent an injury-filled career that ended five years later with his as the MVP of the Sugar Bowl in 2008 after leading the Utes to a perfect 13-0 record.

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Johnson, 33, then reunited with Mullen at Mississippi State where the latter was the head coach, joining his staff as a quarterbacks coach from 2014-16. 

After a brief hiatus away from one another, Johnson is once again with Mullen, this time at Florida. Mullen promoted Johnson from quarterbacks coach of the Gators to offensive coordinator for the team for the upcoming season.

"It’s really exciting," Johnson told the media on Monday of his promotion. "We have great players here and a great coaching staff. I’m excited to get that opportunity and help our team go out there and perform at a really high level.”

Apart from his new role within Florida's revamped offense, Johnson's promotion as offensive coordinator signifies a bigger change within the Gators program. He is the first African-American coach in program history ever to be named offensive coordinator — and now just the seventh black OC in the nation for an FBS-level program.

“I didn’t realize that. If that is the case, it’s obviously something to be very, very proud of," Johnson said. "Coaching the quarterbacks is obviously a big deal, especially here at a place like the University of Florida, where they have a very rich tradition of elite quarterback play and there’s three statues downstairs that prove that. It does make you proud, if that is the case."

Although Johnson is taking over as offensive coordinator, while still remaining as quarterbacks coach, it will be Mullen who will still serve as the primary play-caller. Although, Johnson will continue to have a big say in what goes forward.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Johnson was instrumental in a key fourth down play call that resulted in a 30-yard gain during Florida's 41-15 victory over Michigan in the 2018 Peach Bowl.

That sort of trust between Mullen and Johnson, as well as with the rest of the staff, is why people are viewing the Gators as a potential College Football Playoff darkhorse.

“It’s just a really unique situation because obviously I’ve known coach a really long time, worked together a really long time - as with everybody on the offensive staff with John and Billy and [running backs coach Greg] Knox, as well," said Johnson. "In terms of game day, I’ve always been really heavily involved, myself and coach Mullen, determining how we call the game and what we’re calling and what we’re running."

The promotion to offensive coordinator now puts Johnson's name on a fast track to be a head coach one day, especially if the Gators offense and quarterback Kyle Trask take too new heights.

“He knows the ability to advance in this profession,” Johnson said. "Being a quarterbacks coach is a pipeline to that and it’s something that’s his specialty and he’s done a good job helping me throughout the course of my career and helping me develop as a coach each and every day.”

Johnson began his coaching career in 2010 as the quarterbacks coach for Utah under Kyle Whittingham. It was short-lived as he was quickly promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 at the young age of 24. 

He then made a change and went with Mullen to Mississippi State for three years before leaving to take over as offensive coordinator at Houston. He then returned to Mullen, this time at Florida, to be quarterbacks coach in 2018 before taking over in his new role.

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