Jan. 7, 2014
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham Opening Statement:
Very excited to add Dave to our staff. We have a longstanding relationship that goes back about 25 years. We entered the coaching profession right about the same time. We're excited that he is with us. He gives us a chance to make us better - that's the intent - and strengthen our staff with Jay Hill accepting the Weber State job. He has a great track record as an offensive coordinator. We think it's a great fit, schematically. Right along with what we've been doing with the spread attack, so there are no major changes there. We think it's going to be a seamless transition. Excited to have him.
Dave Christensen Quotes
Obviously, it's a very exciting time for me to have an opportunity to get in what I think is one of the premier conferences in the country, at a place that's very committed to excellence and winning at a high level. Extremely excited to be here. I was a player at the University of Washington - I was a very below-average walk-on, but I had the opportunity to go back there and be a graduate assistant and spend a couple of years in this conference. As a player we went to a couple of Rose Bowls. Went to a bowl game when I was a graduate assistant. Being a west coast guy - when I grew up it was the Pac-8, and it became the Pac-10 and now the Pac-12, was a conference that I've always had great interest in and followed very closely. The opportunity to come back and work with Kyle - as he mentioned we worked together a few years back and had a great relationship. The opportunity to come back and coach with him and coach in this conference was something that I got very excited about when that opportunity came. Just thrilled to be here in Salt Lake to coach in a conference where offenses are explosive. We're hoping we can continue on and make a few adjustments to some things that we've done in the past to continue on with the spread theme, up-tempo, maybe a little more up-tempo, just hopefully put a lot of points on the board. That's what we're here to do.
On what we can expect to see in the offense:
There will be changes. There will be a lot of wrinkles that maybe to the normal eye you won't recognize. We would like to push our tempo a little more. We want to make sure we do some things to change the launch point, move the pocket and throw from some different areas. A lot of the stuff, after I've watched the film, what Utah did last year that's going to be similar stuff to what we're doing. We want to take a lot of the plays that I've run in the past and try to make some small changes to those. Things certainly weren't broken. We can do a great job of coaching and getting better at the little things and continue to make progress from an offensive standpoint.
Ideal quarterback for system:
One who makes great decisions with the football, first and foremost. Two, has an accurate arm. Three, has escapability. Somewhat of a threat as a running standpoint. We can do things with the offense based on the skill level at that position.
On Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson:
I feel great about working with both of them. I've known Dennis for a long time. He's from my hometown. I've followed him and known him forever. I'm sure he has [followed me] since I've gotten in the profession also. Just a couple of days of being here and meeting with those guys, it's going well. Brian is an extremely intelligent young coach. Dennis has a lot of knowledge and experience. I think it's a great combination. I feel really good about working with both of them.
On the Pac-12 today:
They are extremely athletic. More so than I think when I was finishing at Missouri in the Big 12. It's going to be a challenge. I think this conference is as good as any in the country from a skill standpoint. It will be a great challenge for us. The league is different now. Obviously it's been a long time since I've been in this area. We're watching the cutups now. UCLA has a lot of good players. USC has a lot of good players. Stanford has a lot of good players. Arizona, Arizona State. You're going to play good football teams every single week in this conference.
On the priority for the offense:
Number one is to protect the football. Number two is to get everything installed. Get the terminology down and identify our top 22-25 players offensively.
On increasing the tempo:
It's really based on execution and scoring points. If you're executing and scoring points, we'll go as fast as we can play. What you don't want to do - and I've spent some time talking with Kyle about this - is go three-and-out and put the defense on the field and again go three-and-out and put the defense on the field. The tempo is something we're really going to stress in spring ball. The higher level of execution, the faster we are going to play.
Kyle Whittingham Quotes:
On the process of hiring:
It was a timing issue. When things changed at Wyoming and Jay Hill took the job at Weber, that happened about the same time. What I think anyone looks for is a chance to make yourself better and strengthen what you are doing. When that all came together and aligned from a timing standpoint, to me it made perfect sense. I was excited to reunite with him - we were on the same staff at Idaho State back in the early 90's. To have a chance to bring in a guy of Dave's caliber, I jumped at that. It was a great opportunity for us in my estimation. If you're hiring someone, you want to hire the best person you can hire and put him in the best spot where you can utilize his skills.
On having several offensive coordinators in the past few years:
It's tough. It's not ideal. It's really the antithesis of our defense and special teams situation. We were rock solid, we've only had one change at defensive coordinator and that's when Gary Andersen left. Jay Hill's been our special teams coordinator up until now. It's a direct contrast to the stability that we've had in those two spots. One thing is, the scheme that Dave brings to the table is so similar to what we're already doing. I wasn't going to bring a guy in here and have him start over from square one. We're just trying to enhance what we're already doing. I hope the players will recognize that as soon as the new elements to the offense go in.
On Dennis Erickson:
Coach Erickson is an unbelievable guy. When I visited with him when I was making this change, he said 'I've been in this profession so long I don't need titles. I don't need anything. All I want to do is help the University win.' He says he's thrilled to be here as the running back coach and help Dave continue with what we're doing offensively. I made the comment when I hired him that he's the consummate professional and that's exactly what he is. We're excited and elated that he stayed on.
On the decision-making process:
It was not easy. As I mentioned, we've changed offensive coordinators quite a bit. Change maybe isn't the right word. When Andy (Ludwig) left and Norm (Chow) left, there have been some things that you can't control. You have to replace guys when they leave. As far as just making a change, it was a situation where we still need to get better. You don't need to bash the guys who ran the offense in the past, but as you move forward, and I think we're on the right track, you have to get better. We still aren't good enough offensively. I don't think there is anyone on this building who will disagree with that. Our hope is that Dave will help us get to the next level.
On the future of the quarterback position:
The dilemma is Travis' health, and not being able to know for several months as far as a clear cut yes or no on whether he is able to play. He's out of the equation for spring ball as far as I'm concerned. That leaves a competition between Adam Schulz, who finished the season for us, and the two freshmen that we are very high on who redshirted, Brandon Cox and Connor Manning. It's going to be an interesting competition in the spring. Everyone is going to get reps. Micah Thomas is also in that equation. We've got to let it play itself out. The cream usually rises to the top and whether that takes all through spring and two weeks of fall camp, there is no real time frame on it. We hope to see that clear separation. We also have that added element that if after spring ball Travis is able to play, that throws another factor into the equation. Travis is obviously the guy who has the most experience and has extensive playing time and was really doing some good things for us before the hand injury last fall. I can't give you a clear answer, but the competition in the spring should be exciting. We know who is going to be involved in that competition.
On making the position attractive for Coach Christensen:
I think our relationship in the past had a great deal to do with it. Dave was getting some interest from a lot of places. I think the overriding factor was our past relationship and the chance to work together. Our wives are good friends, and I think there were some things that added to the attractiveness of the job. Now we have two former head coaches on staff in assistant roles, and for me that's a great resource. I've gone on and on about how great a resource Dennis has been and now we've got another guy who has been in that chair and is able to help make those tough decisions.
On the special teams coordinator position:
Not completely because the dust hasn't settled yet. This is the time of year where there is a lot of movement. We still may have more movement on the staff. That remains to be seen. I don't think anyone in the country is completely devoid of that. When the dust completely settles, I'll have an answer for you.
If nothing changes, it will be in house. I was a special teams coordinator for 4-5 years and have worked closely with Jay and have been very involved in special teams. If I need to be the point man on that and farm out some of the units, we can do it that way. If we have more staff turnover and have a great special teams person out there, that could be a possibility as well. We'll just have to see what happens.
On reflecting on last season:
Don't turn the ball over and take it away. When you look at the entire year, we got better at everything except that. And that's the most important stat. We coach it every day, we preach it, it's not like we're ignoring it and the players don't understand about protecting the football. Turnovers are almost an elusive stat. You have less direct control on that than you do a lot of the statistics. For a lot of years, defensively, we were top three in the conference in takeaways year after year and all of a sudden for the last two years we can't get a takeaway. That is by far the most important thing that has to change. The prior year, red zone production was a problem and we fixed that. Our red zone production was much better this year on both sides of the ball, percentage wise (touchdown percentage).