By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – When Mississippi State begins spring practice this afternoon, it will be the first time since Dan Mullen arrived that he will have to break in a new quarterbacks coach.
Les Koenning, who had been the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 2009, left to be wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Texas, following the Liberty Bowl. But the guy Mullen hired as his replacement is no stranger.
Former Utah quarterback and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was named QBs coach last month, reuniting with Mullen, who recruited and coached him in Salt Lake City.
“I know exactly how he is, what he expects, and what the expectation is for quarterback play,” Johnson said. “It’s probably identical to what I expect out of my group as well. It’s a great opportunity and an experience for me to be around a brilliant offensive mind like coach Mullen.”
Mullen is not the only one of his former coaches Johnson is reconnecting with on the Bulldog staff. He also worked under former Utes assistants John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales, now State’s new co-offensive coordinators.
“From a philosophical standpoint the foundation of my offensive philosophy kind of derives from what I learned from those guys early on at Utah,” Johnson said. “Those principles are things that have stuck with me over the last 11 years.”
Johnson signed at age 16 and spent the 2004 season working with Mullen while serving as a backup in 10 games as a true freshman behind future No. 1 NFL Draft pick Alex Smith.
Although Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales left for Florida after that season, Johnson’s ascension continued. He went on to throw for 7,853 yards and 57 touchdowns during his career and led Utah to a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama in his final game.
Johnson began his coaching career with the Utes the following year, in 2010, and was named the youngest offensive coordinator in the country two seasons later at age 24. Last year he served as Utah’s co-offensive coordinator with veteran Dennis Erickson.
Working with Dak
Johnson will begin working with the Bulldogs quarterbacks for the first time this afternoon and understands has a gifted starter returning in rising junior Dak Prescott.
“He carries himself with a certain demeanor that draws people to him,” Johnson said. “He’s very charismatic, very good with people. He’s a great leader, an extremely hard worker and obviously a talented player. He has some special abilities, some special tools.
“I’m excited to get a chance to work with him and try to help continue to refine and develop those tools, and get him to reach his maximum potential.”