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What makes Brian Johnson a top candidate for Alabama’s OC?

Eagles QB coach Brian Johnson with Jalen Hurts in 2022 season.
Mitchell Leff - Getty Images

Nick Saban went to the National Football League for Brian Daboll in 2017, making the former New England Patriot and offensive coordinator for Alabama. 

The move worked as Daboll helped Saban to a national championship. Saban did not see the league yield the same result for Bill O’Brien. He helped the Crimson Tide to a Southeastern Conference Championship in 2021, but the Tide has gone two years without a national title. Brian Johnson has to be the name if Saban goes to the NFL again for an offensive coordinator.

RELATED: Former Alabama LB explains why Jeremy Pruitt should be the Crimson Tide’s DC

What makes Johnson a top candidate for Alabama’s opening as offensive coordinator? 

He positioned former Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts to be a finalist for NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. Hurts is dominating the NFL in his second season as a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. Johnson has guided Hurts to have Philadelphia as the NFC East champions and won victory away from a Super Bowl appearance. 

A breakdown of Johnson’s success as a coach is below. 

Mississippi State (2014-16) 

Brian Johnson’s coaching career started at the University of Utah (Alma mater), but his name grew for what he did at Mississippi State University. 

He spent three seasons as a quarterbacks’ coach under Dan Mullen. Johnson developed Dak Prescott into a successful college quarterback and an NFL Draft pick. Prescott was a two-time 3,000-yard passer (2014-15) under Johnson and totaled 80 touchdowns. The Bulldogs finished with a 10-3 record in 2014 and a 9-4 mark in 2015. Johnson mentored Nick Fitzgerald to 37 touchdowns, including 16 rushing scores, in 2016. He showed his process with dual-threat quarterbacks. 

Houston (2017) 

Johnson was at Houston for a season, but he got his hands on a talented athlete. 

D’Eriq King was a sophomore quarterback for the Cougars in 2017.

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Johnson coached him to 15 touchdowns, including eight rushing scores. He served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach, helping five receiving options catch at least 20 passes. Linell Bonner led Houston for receptions (80) and touchdowns (five), while Steven Dunbar posted a team-high 1,070 receiving yards. Duke Catalon collected eight rushing scores. 

Florida (2018-20) 

Johnson returned to the SEC in 2018 as he reunited with Dan Mullen at Florida. 

He started as a quarterbacks’ coach, mentoring Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. 

Franks had a marquee year in 2018, posting 31 total touchdowns (seven rushing scores) to six interceptions.

RELATED: Signs point towards a Jeremy Pruitt and Alabama reunion as defensive coordinator

Florida averaged 35 points per game and had a 10-3 record with Franks at quarterback and Johnson coaching him. The Gators took a step forward in 2019 as Trask snatched the starting quarterback job from Franks. Johnson helped him to 29 touchdowns (four rushing scores), and Florida finished with an 11-2 record. Johnson had Florida’s offense at its best in 2020. The Gators had five 40+ point games during a COVID-shortened season. Trask became a Heisman Trophy finalist with 4,283 passing yards, 46 total touchdowns (three rushing scores), and eight interceptions. Florida had six receiving options to total 20 or more catches.

Kyle Pitts led all receiving options for touchdowns (12), but Kadarius Toney led the Gators for receptions (70) and receiving yards (984).

He turned in 10 touchdown catches. 

Philadelphia Eagles (2021-present) 

As a quarterbacks’ coach for the Eagles, Johnson has Jalen Hurts playing confidently in his second year as a starter. 

Hurts finished the 2022 regular season with 3,701 passing yards, ranking him tenth in the National Football League among signal-callers. He has 38 total touchdowns, including 14 rushing scores. Hurts has played himself into a Pro Bowl invitation and an All-Pro second-team selection. Johnson’s work has set up Hurts for a max contract in the offseason. Johnson elevated Hurts’ completion percentage (66.5), passing yards, yards per attempt (eight), and passer rating (101.6) from 2021.

He has the native Texan playing like a complete quarterback. 

Before coaching 

Before coaching, Johnson was a quarterback at the University of Utah. 

He backed up Alex Smith in 2004 and became the starter in 2005. Johnson tossed 56 touchdown passes as a three-year starter, including 27 in 2008. He rushed for 12 touchdowns in his career and was the starting quarterback in the 2009 Sugar Bowl (’08 season), where Utah defeated Alabama. Johnson took the Utes to a perfect 13-0 season in 2008, which included a 31-17 victory over the Crimson Tide. He had 336 passing yards and three touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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