Feb. 11, 2013
"Obviously we made a hire today. Dennis Erickson will round out our staff and we will be at capacity. Dennis will come in with a wealth of knowledge and he brings experience to our program. We are excited to have him on board. He will be our co-offensive coordinator and work shoulder-to-shoulder with Brian Johnson. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Dennis. Throughout his career I've been fascinated with what he's done offensively way back when he was at Idaho and Wyoming in the early stages of his head-coaching career. I really believe he is going to add a great deal to our program, not only in terms of offensive scheme, but recruiting ties and overall experience in the game of football. He has been there and done that, to say the least. We are excited about this and he will be joining us a week from tomorrow, after President's Day.
Q - What sold you on Dennis, how long did the process take and how will his relationship with Brian Johnson work?
"What sold me on Dennis was just his track record. I've followed his career. Way back when he was at Idaho and Wyoming I was just getting into coaching and thinking about a coaching career. So I have tracked his progress since the early days. I had been talking to Dennis about this particular position for about four weeks. I approached him, I made the first contact, and asked if he would be interested in getting back in it. He was very excited at the notion. In the meantime, I interviewed several candidates for the position. I wanted to make sure we got the absolute best fit, and I think we did get the best fit for our needs right now."
Q - Is there any concern about continuity with Travis [Wilson] and others after adding another new offensive mind?
"I don't think so. I went down to see him in Arizona as a first step in the process, after a couple of phone conversations. I felt good enough about what he envisioned and the direction he wanted to go to bring him up here and put him in front of our staff. There was mutual agreement on both sides that we can continue in the direction we are headed, and we're not starting over. We were not very good on offense last year, but I think we are doing some good things and we need to build on that. And I think he will allow us to do that without having a wholesale systematic change."
"They will be co-coordinators, and Dennis will have the final say. But Brian is working with him. Any time you have co-coordinator positions you need one of the two to be the lead guy and make the final decisions. Brian is excited about it. It's an opportunity for all of us to learn from him. Selfishly, I'm going to benefit from this hire also. This guy has been successful at every level of coaching."
Q - Was there a plan to bring someone in to mentor Brian after last season?
"I don't know if that's the right word. We wanted someone to assist in what we are doing. A lot candidates we interviewed, if we decided to go in a different direction, it would not have been a co-coordinator position. I had not made a definitive decision to go that route, but when it was all said and done and we looked at the pool, it made a lot of sense to bring Dennis in."
Q - How did Brian handle the news, is he looking at this as a demotion?
"No, he's not. We had the conversation before the process started. I told him if we find the right guy, it may be a co-coordinator situation. I said I wasn't sure what direction we were going to go. We would go through the process, see what options were available and what kind of people we come across in the process. So there was no surprise. Brian knew all along we were going to get the best fit for our offense and our needs. Brian is a team guy. In no way, shape or form does this diminish my opinion of Brian or what I think his potential is, and his future is. This is just a way to make us better right now."
Q - Have you worked out a contract and is there a specific time frame you expect Coach Erickson to be here?
"We haven't worked out specific details yet. In this profession I don't know if you can make any hard and fast plans. He's 65 years old and we think he definitely has a few good years left, at least."
Q - Given Coach Erickson's recent struggles at ASU and with the 49ers, did that come up in the interview and was that a concern?
"I think he'll be just fine. We are hiring him to make our offense more productive. That's his primary objective here and the reason we brought him in. He has had great success at Miami, he won two national championships, and he was a head coach in the NFL. He's a three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. He's done plenty of good things in his career. You are hard pressed to look at a guy who has coached that long and to have every year be up, that rarely happens."
Q - What would you say Dennis' offensive area of expertise is?
"The overall scheme in the spread attack. He was running the one-back spread, a little different than it's being run today, but he was doing it way back. That was something that fascinated me, everywhere he went he had very prolific offenses based out of the spread philosophy. The key run game elements and things have evolved since then but that's what intrigues us most."
Q - When you first called, how excited was Dennis to get back into coaching?
"Very much so. From the onset when I put the question to him he paused and got very excited. He said `That's something I would definitely consider.' So that was our first conversation and as we continued our talks it was very apparent that he was really excited about getting back into it."
Q - Can you talk about what his recruiting responsibilities will be?
"We haven't ironed that out exactly but most likely it will be similar to what coach Chow had. There might be a small area that he will work in, but he will mostly be a recruiter coast-to-coast who you can put in homes, particularly in front of quarterbacks. He can have his biggest impact there, rather than give him a geographical area and say go forth. He is very connected back in Miami and really coast-to-coast. He has recruited a ton of players and coached guys like Ray Lewis, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Steven Jackson at Oregon State. He has a wealth of contacts and a great network that we can draw from."
Q - How much did his experience in the Pac-12 factor in?
"That played into it as well, much like when we hired Norm [Chow]. One of reasons I brought him in was his familiarity with the league. He's been at three different places in the conference and done a great job and was Coach of the Year at each stop, so that was certainly part of the equation."
Q - How aware is he of the talent you have on the roster, especially at the QB position?
"He knows a lot. What was amazing was when I went down there talk to him he had done his homework and knew far more than I expected from a guy in that position who was retired and been out of football. That was one of the things that was really positive to me, not just how much knew about our players, but our staff and our scheme in general. When he came in to the meeting with our staff and other assistant coaches he immediately had some great ideas on what needed to happen and what we could do to become better."
Q - Where does Aaron Roderick fit in at this point?
"Aaron is still our passing game coordinator and he is vital part of our offensive staff. It's like having another coordinator's mind in the room. He is a smart guy and we are fortunate that he is still with us."
Q - Have you done position breakdowns with the other coaches?
This is going to be as un-invasive as possible. We think Dennis might take on a role kind of like Norm did and coach the tight ends, but also be able to roam around and have someone else who can assist with tight ends when he needs to break free and oversee other areas. That's the initial thought but there are still a lot of details to hash out. Brian will still coach quarterbacks, Jay Hill most likely will stay with the running backs, Aaron will definitely stay with the wide receivers. So I don't think there will be much disruption. I can't say that definitively but we hope it will be a smooth transition and everyone can stay put."
Q - Does Dennis have aspirations to be a head coach again?
"He didn't mention those aspirations to me. He said he was excited to come in and run the offense and he said it seemed like a good fit for him at this point in his career."
Q - Is Coach Erickson going to run that high-tempo offense that's so popular in the Pac-12 right now?
"That will be part of it. We talked about that, as much as you can accomplish in a four-hour interview. There's a lot of details that we need to continue to talk about and make decisions on. That will be a part of what we do, being able to change tempo. I'm not going to tell you we will be going at the light speed that Oregon goes at on every snap but we will have the ability to change tempo. That was something we were thinking about prior to Coach Erickson coming on board."
Q - Did you offer an assistant coach position to anyone else?
"No, he was the only offer. As I went through the process he was the only guy I offered and fortunately he accepted for us."
Q - Can you talk about the personnel you have and how it might fit into what Erickson wants to do?
"We think we have personnel we have been recruiting toward this for the last two recruiting classes, so I think it will fit very well. What you saw Arizona State doing in Coach Erickson's last few seasons there, there will be a lot of similarities with what they did and what we will be doing. There's a lot of good things they did very well that we can implement here so I think it will be a good transition."