Johnson becomes Florida's first Black offensive coordinator
Mullen makes Johnson UF's first Black offensive coordinator
Brian Johnson made history earlier this year and didn't even know it. It happened when Florida head football coach Dan Mullen promoted Johnson from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, making him the first Black OC in program history.
“I didn’t realize that. If that is the case, it’s obviously something to be very, very proud of," Johnson said. "Coaching the quarterbacks is obviously a big deal, especially here at a place like the University of Florida, where they have a very rich tradition of elite quarterback play and there’s three statues downstairs that prove that. It does make you proud (to be the first Black offensive coordinator at UF), if that is the case. I haven’t looked that up, so I’m not sure. But it’s definitely something to be proud of, for sure.”
Johnson's promotion came early in the year, before COVID-19 shut things down in the middle of march. The history-making move was never released by UF or announced by Mullen. It did not become known until Monday, when the school released the Gators' 2020 media guide.
In Johnson's bio, he's listed as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He becomes the lone offensive coordinator after offensive line coach John Hevesy and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales were co-coordinators in Mullen's first two seasons at UF.
Hevesy is now the running game coordinator, while Gonzales is the passing game coordinator.
"Obviously our entire offensive staff has been together for a really long time," Johnson said. "I talked to coach Mullen ... we talked probably before all this COVID stuff hit and obviously 2020's been a very weird year so I guess it kind of just got lost in the sauce a little bit, but excited to make sure that we go out there and compete at a really high level on a consistent basis each and every week.
"It’s really exciting. We have great players here and a great coaching staff. I’m excited to get that opportunity and help our team go out there and perform at a really high level.”
Johnson is considered one of the bright young assistant coaches in college football and a head coaching candidate in the future. This isn't his first stint as an offensive coordinator. He held the position at Utah, his alma mater, for two seasons before leaving to take the offensive coordinator's job at Houston in 2017.
Johnson, who coached quarterbacks under Mullen at Mississippi State from 2014-16, gave up the offensive coordinator's job at Houston to rejoin Mullen at Florida as part of his UF staff to coach quarterbacks.
“It’s just a really unique situation," Johnson said. "Because obviously I’ve known coach a really long time, worked together a really long time — as with everybody on the offensive staff with John and Billy and (running backs coach Greg) Knox. Even when we were at Mississippi State we had a system in place of how everything worked on game day and throughout the course of the week.
"It’s always been a really collaborative effort in terms of our plan. And you know one of the things we always talk about is we really do most of the work calling the game on Monday through Thursday. When you get out there on the field it becomes a little bit of instincts and things take over. For the most part you do your work early and the guys put it together and we’ve been very collaborative during the course of our careers together.”
Johnson said his role won't be a whole lot different with his new title. In his two years at UF, he's helped devise the offensive game plans, and Mullen has given him an opportunity to call some plays in games.
“I don’t know how much will change from a day-to-day aspect," he said. "We have a lot of continuity on our staff, so our schedule and our routine is pretty set in terms of how we operate on a daily basis. In terms of game day, I’ve always been really heavily involved, myself and Coach Mullen, determining how we call the game and what we’re calling and what we’re running. From a logistical standpoint, I don’t know how much in a change in terms of our day-to-day operation.”
Johnson is considered an up-and-comer in the coaching profession. but said he had not received any offers from other schools in the offseason before Mullen elevated him to offensive coordinator.
“Not necessarily, no," he said. "It was something that Coach Mullen and I kind of talked about for a little while. I think for him it was the perfect opportunity to make everything kind of fit into place. In terms of our day-to-day operation, I think we’ll continue to have a really collaborative effort.
"Obviously, when your head coach is very involved in the offense, it’s a little bit different. He knows the ability to advance in this profession, being a quarterbacks coach is a pipeline to that and it’s something that’s his specialty and he’s done a good job helping me throughout the course of my career and helping me develop as a coach each and every day.”
Who: No. 6 Florida vs. Ole Miss
Where: Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850