Former Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson returns to hostile territory tonight, but he’ll see at least one friendly face.
Erickson, the first-year Utah co-offensive coordinator and play-caller, goes way back with the Arizona Wildcats’ offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.
Erickson was the head coach at Washington State in 1987 and 1988, which were Michalczik’s final two seasons as an offensive lineman for the Cougars. Erickson then moved on to Miami and gave Michalczik his start in coaching as a defensive grad assistant with the Hurricanes in 1990 and 1991.
“I owe him a lot,” said Michalczik, who will lead the line against the Utes tonight at Arizona Stadium.
“He is a lot of reason why I am in this profession. He was a great role model for me and was great to my family. I will always be grateful.”
Michalczik was later the offensive line coach for Erickson at Oregon State from 1999 to 2001.
The last time the Wildcats saw Erickson, they were beating his 2011 Arizona State team 31-27 in Tempe. He was fired about a week later.
Utah hired Erickson after last season to help mentor young coordinator Brian Johnson after the Utes finished 105th nationally in total offense at 324.4 yards per game.
Erickson, building on the talents of sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson, has helped Utah average 469.3 yards per game, which is the 32nd-best mark in the country.
“You can tell it’s him,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said of Erickson’s influence on Utah’s offense.
“They are still doing some things they did last year, but certainly it’s Dennis Erickson’s deal with spreading you out a little bit, throwing the ball on the perimeter quite a bit, a lot of movement with the tailbacks out of the backfield, going to a lot of empty sets.
“And they’ve pushed the tempo more, too.”