Pitcock, Barton, on Hiring of Johnson

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Football
Former Buckeyes Think Highly of Johnson
By Rob Ogden with contributions from Tony Gerdeman and John Porentas

Most Ohio State fans are just now familiarizing themselves with new defensive line coach Larry Johnson, but two former Buckeyes have known what Johnson is all about for many years.

Former offensive lineman Kirk Barton repeatedly faced Penn State's Johnson-led front during his career at Ohio State. Former defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock was impressed by Johnson on his recruiting visit to State College.

Both said they expect Johnson to be a great addition to Urban Meyer's coaching staff.

Pitcock just wants to make sure the former Penn State assistant isn't an infiltrator.

"I just hope he's not a mole," he joked. "Nineteen years is a long time to take a lateral job for a main rival."

Quinn Pitcock gets set to lower the boom in the 2004 Penn State game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Quinn Pitcock

Barton probably wishes Johnson's move would have come 10 years earlier. A mainstay on Ohio State's offensive line from 2004-to-2007, Barton said they termed Johnson's group of linemen as "grown men."

Johnson coached six future first-round picks on the defensive line, including Courtney Brown, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Barton listed as slew of NFL Nittany Lions that he faced, including Pro-Bowlers Tamba Hali and Cameron Wake.

Before Johnson arrived at Penn State in 1996, the Nittany Lions hadn't had a defensive lineman taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1970.

When he was in the ninth grade, Barton saw the success of Brown, and attended Penn State's football camp as a defensive end and tight end.

Even after Barton switched to the offensive side of the football and committed to Ohio State, Johnson's wisdom from the camp stuck with him.

"He stressed an aggressive, up-field approach that forced the offense to react to them, as opposed to reading and reacting to the offense," said Barton, who works for Oswald Companies, an insurance brokerage in Columbus.

"I carried that knowledge with me every time I prepared to play Penn State, as I knew how strong their front four would be and how well they would rush the passer. They also have always had the most ferocious field goal block unit in the country. Their guys make every extra point an absolute war on the interior, which is something 99 percent of fans don’t notice."

Pitcock said the only coach that impressed him as much as Johnson was Jim Tressel. Ultimately, he made the decision to commit to Ohio State based on distance from his home town of Piqua.

"(Johnson) was the first coach that gave the vibe that he was about family before football — then I met coach Tressel," Pitcock said.

"Relaxed, calm and collected, he showed his players success at PSU and where I could fit. I never felt pressured by him to make a decision on the spot to accept a scholarship."

Pitcock also cited Brown as a major recruiting tool for the team at the time, and said Johnson's recruiting prowess will be valuable to Ohio State, as well.

"He brings the experience of being a high-profile defensive line coach to a championship team," he said. "You win up front. D-linemen make linebackers look good and in turn, linebackers make defensive backs look good."

Barton said though former defensive line coach Mike Vrabel will be missed, Johnson's resume "speaks for itself."

"If you had a stack of very qualified resumes to replace (Vrabel), I cannot imagine many that would outdo Larry Johnson’s," Barton said. "He coaches very hard and his players play with great effort and technique.  I think he'll be a great addition to the Ohio State family."

Related Article - OSU press release on Johnson Hire

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