Assistant Coach Taver Johnson Leaves OSU for Arkansas
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was one noticeable absence Sunday when Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer introduced his new coaching staff at halftime of the OSU-Indiana basketball game.
Now we know why.
The University of Arkansas officially announced that head coach Bobby Petrino has hired former OSU assistant Taver Johnson as the new assistant head coach/linebackers coach for the Razorback.
Johnson spent the last five seasons as cornerbacks coach at Ohio State before being retained by Meyer during coaching staff change in December of 2011. He will join former OSU assistant Paul Haynes, who is now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas.
“Taver is an extremely enthusiastic and devoted coach,” Coach Petrino said in a statement.
“He has a strong work ethic, is a great teacher of the game and is skillful at relating to his players. During his time at Ohio State, he became familiar with the principles Coach (Paul) Haynes has worked to incorporate here. He has also been a part of a program with a culture of consistently winning and will be instrumental in preparing our players to compete for championships.”
Petrino and the Razorbacks got a first-hand look at both Haynes and Johnson during their loss to Ohio State in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes had a rash of injuries in their secondary—including a dislocated wrist by All-American corner Chimdi Chekwa—but still managed to hold Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas passing game in check for much of the game.
Under Johnson and Haynes, who was the safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes in 2011, Ohio State ranked fourth in the Big Ten in turnover margin and fifth in the conference in pass defense. Ohio State also ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA in total defense and scoring defense.
Meyer opted to retain Johnson, who is from Cincinnati and played linebacker at Wittenberg University—where he was a two-time All-American and the North Coast Athletics Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993.
He was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 1999—while Meyer was still serving as the wide receivers coach in South Bend—and worked as the linebackers coach at Miami University (Ohio) from 2000-03.
Johnson spent one year with the Cleveland Browns before returning to Miami as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. He also coached the defensive line for the Oakland Raiders for one year before being hired to coach the cornerbacks at Ohio State in 2007.
The Buckeyes have not decided on a replacement for Johnson, who was expected to be a part of the final defensive staff under coordinator Luke Fickell and co-coordinator Everett Withers.
Withers, who served as defensive coordinator and interim head coach at North Carolina, is a defensive backs coach by trade, but Meyer will certainly look to add another defensive assistant to his coaching staff in the coming weeks.
Don’t be surprised if his first call is to Chuck Heater, the current defensive coordinator at Temple University. Heater coached defensive backs under Meyer at both Utah (2004) and Florida (2005-10). He was also the co-defensive coordinator for the Gators in 2010, and Meyer has called him the best defensive backs coach in America on more than one occasion.
Heater is a native of West Virginia who played running back at the University of Michigan from 1972-74. He was an all-state running back at Columbian High School in Tiffin, Ohio where he racked up more than 3,530 total yards and scored a total of 310 points.
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