HOUSTON (FOX 26) -
University of Houston head coach Major Applewhite has hired Mississippi State quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson as the Cougars offensive coordinator.
"I’ve known Major for a little while, and obviously I followed his career as a player and have always admired the path that he’s taken into coaching. Very, very similar path that I have," Johnson said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. I’m excited for the opportunity to get a chance to come home and work for him.
"It’s very, very unique. Obviously, growing up very, very close to the university, I’ve always admired the program. Now it’s just an exciting time to finally get a chance to be a part of it and continue to build upon what’s been going on there."
Johnson looks forward to working with Applewhite's offense.
"I think the transition will be fairly seamless," Johnson said. "The system has remained consistent throughout the years, bits and pieces have been tweaked and changed.
"For the most part that’s what made it so attractive, being able to work with Major because the system that we ran at Mississippi State is very, very similar. The system that I ran my first year in college at Utah is very, very similar. For us everything was aligned and it was a very good fit."
Johnson played a key role in the development of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who according to the school’s web site became the most decorated player in Mississippi State history.
On Johnson’s watch Prescott set nine single-season passing records with the Bulldogs, and was the first two-time All –SEC quarterback at Mississippi State in 69 years.
“He was unbelievable, and I’m very thankful to have him as a coach,” Prescott said in a statement released by the University of Houston.
“Once I got the offense down, he took me to another level, and his knowledge of the game was invaluable. It means a lot to have someone who has played at such a high level, be able to teach you.
“You look at the success he had with his undefeated season at Utah and you know he can back up what he is teaching. He’s also a great guy who pushes you to be a better person in the community and academically. I’m very proud of him.”
Prescott's thoughts mean a great deal to Johnson.
"It’s very, very special," Johnson said. "Obviously, Dak is the most high profile player that I’ve coached. The relationships in coaching that you build with these young men are the reason why I coach.
"Any time that one of your former players can say that you’ve had a positive impact on their life is very rewarding."
During his three-year stint with the Bulldogs, Mississippi State was second in the SEC in both total offense and passing offense.
The season prior to Johnson’s arrival the Bulldogs were ninth in total offense and seventh in passing offense.
Johnson, who is from Baytown, is the all-time winningest quarterback at Utah, where he played in the Sugar Bowl in 2008 and was named the MVP after beating Alabama.
Johnson has been the quarterbacks coach at Mississippi State since 2014.
Prior to that he was at Utah from 2011-2014, as quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and co-offensive coordinator.
Johnson was a receiver and quarterback for former Baytown Lee coach Dick Olin (1992-2008), who is thrilled to see him go to work for Applewhite.
"I think it’s fantastic," Olin said. "They couldn’t make a better hire. The offense they run at Ohio State, started at Bowling Green and went to Utah. It’s at Mississippi State. It’s at Ohio State and it’s in Houston. Who knows it better than Brian Johnson?
"He’s smart. He’s a student of the game. He’s always been more mature. He took Utah to 12-0. They beat ‘Bama in a (2008 Sugar) bowl game. He was the MVP.
"He was 17-years-old and was a backup to Alex Smith at Utah. How about that one. I couldn't be happier."