From his days as an all-conference quarterback at Northern Iowa in the early 1990s to his two-year stint as a quality control assistant at Georgia the last two seasons, Jay Johnson has picked up a lot of ideas on how to move the football down the field and put points on the scoreboard.
Preparing for his first season as the offensive coordinator at Colorado, Johnson is eager to take what he's learned and apply it to the players on the Buffaloes' roster.
A coaching veteran of more than 20 years, Johnson has been an offensive coordinator at Truman State, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota, while also coaching, at various times, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends in several other stops.
"Being able to be different places with different coaches and different styles has morphed me into the idea of, 'I think we can do a little bit of everything,' which hopefully will be better for us and better for our team," Johnson said.
Johnson described the offense he's bringing to CU as "very multiple."
"We'll be a little bit of pro, a little bit of spread, a little bit of air raid," he said. "We're going to try to be very, very multiple in all that we do with different elements of each. We have a very diverse coaching staff offensively, so really trying to mold all those ideas and different schemes and systems into one."
For Johnson, finding the right formula to succeed on offense is a fun challenge each year, in part because he's always got different pieces to the puzzle. This year, he's trying to implement his ideas with a group of players he's never coached.
"At the end of the day, you still have to see who you have and put those guys in a position to make plays and put the right guys out there," he said last week after one of the Buffs' first practices of spring football. "We're just trying to develop all those thoughts and ideas at this point and that will continue to evolve through spring."
One key piece to the puzzle is senior quarterback Steven Montez. He's a two-year starter and among CU's all-time leaders in all major passing categories. Although Johnson and head coach Mel Tucker have not declared Montez as the starter — competition at every spot is open this offseason — there's no question his experience puts Montez at the forefront.
"Very, very, very gifted," Johnson said of Montez. "Really good ability to throw the football and does a lot of good things. I'm challenging him in some different ways, but he's starting to grab hold a little bit, so I'm excited about that.
"I watched quite a bit of (Montez's 2018 games) and I knew he was very physically gifted, has the ability to throw the football, and I like his run ability, too."
In the early stages, Johnson has liked what he's seen from a lot of players, including the Buffs' other quarterbacks and the stable of young running backs.
Of course, it's early in the process of putting CU's offense together and "days 10, 11 and 12 are going to be a lot different," Johnson said. He is pleased with the early progress of the offense, though, and he's excited to see the Buffs evolve.
"I like where we're going right now," he said. "It's a lot of new things in certain words. A lot of us in college football do similar things, but it's a different language. I think the guys have been adjusting well. I feel pretty good.
"Obviously there's a lot of details we're really lacking at this point. I think we're kind of understanding the bigger picture, but for us to really get to where we need to get, we have to hone in on the details."