GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Brian Johnson knows what it’s like to be a successful college football quarterback because he was one during his time at Utah from 2004-2008.
Johnson passed for 7,853 yards, 57 touchdowns and 27 interceptions with 848 rushing yards and 12 scores during his career at Utah’s starting quarterback. He finished his playing career with the most wins by a Utes starting QB, going 26-7. The biggest of those wins came at the close of the 2008 season and the close of Johnson’s playing career when his sixth-ranked Utes defeated fourth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to cap an undefeated season. Johnson threw for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing 65.9 percent of his passes against the Crimson Tide.
After a year playing professionally with the New York Sentinels of the United Football League in 2009, Johnson is now making a name for himself as a college football quarterbacks coach, helping groom the up-and-comers of the game at a position where he excelled.
His next stop: The Florida Gators, where he will be reunited with coach Dan Mullen, who recruited him to Utah. The Gators are a team that desperately needs consistency and continuity at the quarterback position after going through 11 starters the past eight seasons.
Here’s a closer look at Johnson’s resume and how he has fared with developing quarterbacks and passing games at his previous three stops.
Johnson most recently served as Houston’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2017 season under first-year coach Major Applewhite. The Cougars went 7-4 on the season, but Johnson’s offense ranked 35th overall in yardage (436.1 per game) and 38th in passing offense (260.6 yards per game). Houston sustained its success in the passing game despite using three different quarterbacks throughout the season.
Junior Kyle Allen, a Texas A&M transfer and former top-ranked pro-style quarterback recruit according to the 247Sports composite, opened the season as the starter and threw for 751 yards, 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in three games before being benched in favor of senior Kyle Postma. Postma started the next four games of the year and led Houston to a 2-2 record while throwing for 975 yards, 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
Postma was benched early in his fifth start against USF in favor of sophomore D’Eriq King, who led the Cougars to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory and afterward was named the starter for the remainder of the year. In the final three games of the regular season, King completed 73 percent of his passes for 832 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception while averaging 11.2 yards per pass attempt.
Mississippi State (2014-2016)
Johnson served as Mississippi State’s quarterbacks coach during the final two years of the Dak Prescott era (2014-2015) and, with Mullen, helped morph Prescott into an eventual NFL talent. Prescott threw for 7,242 yards, 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in those two seasons while leading Mississippi State to a 19-7 record overall in that time span. Prescott also rushed for 1,574 and 24 touchdowns in those two seasons.
In Johnson’s final year at Mississippi State and lone year without Prescott behind center, redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 2,423 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for a team-best 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns that season, joining Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and South Florida’s Quinton Flowers as the only quarterbacks with at least 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards that season.
Johnson’s coaching career started at his alma mater after his playing career ended. He served solely as the quarterbacks coach from 2010-2011 before assuming offensive coordinator duties for the final two years.
In his coaching debut, Johnson helped the Utes finish 47th in passing offense, averaging 236.1 yards per game through the air to go along with 24 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Utes finished 10-3 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain West Conference.
Utah transitioned to the Pac-12 at the start of the 2011 season and the offensive numbers took a hit as a result over Johnson’s final three years. After two seasons ranked in the bottom 20 in total offense, the Utes finished 76th nationally in 2013 (397 yards per game) and 62nd in passing offense (236.3 yards per game).