Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Johnson staying at Arkansas
8 of 9 on-field coaches named
Taver Johnson, who coached Arkansas' linebackers in 2012, will coach cornerbacks next season.
FAYETTEVILLE Taver Johnson won’t have to move far for his new job.
The former Arkansas assistant head coach has been retained by Coach Bret Bielema and will shift from linebackers to cornerbacks for the 2013 season. The appointment, which had been expected for a couple of days, came the day before Bielema and his staff re-convene on campus to begin executing their final recruiting push.
“I want to say how excited myself and my family are at staying at the University of Arkansas,” Johnson said Wednesday during a teleconference.
Johnson said his son, Tyree, was so excited he started doing calisthenics when he heard the news.
“My son is 8 years old and the first thing he stared doing was jumping jacks,” Johnson said. “He has friends he wants to be around, and it was gratifying.”
Johnson was asked about having to wait from the end of Arkansas’ season Nov. 23 until this week before knowing where he would be working.
“When there’s a change instaff, the head coach definitely has things in his puzzle he would like to put together,” Johnson said. “Sometimes the pieces don’t fit as quickly as you would like them to, butbeing a part of the puzzle is the ultimate goal and we are excited that happened.
“The one thing I can say is that we talked at least every other day, updating each other on the status of what’s going on. I wasn’t shut out. We just kept our faith and it worked out.”
Johnson, 40, helped provide a late push in the recruitment of several players, notably linebacker Otha Peters of Covington, La. Johnson and Bielema competed against each other for five years in the Big Ten, when Johnson coached corners for Ohio State while Bielema was head coach at Wisconsin.
“I am thrilled Taver Johnson will remain a member of the coaching staff at Arkansas as he will provide stability for our student-athletes,” Bielema said in a statement. “Taver spent five years in a championship culture prior to coming to Fayetteville, and his tremendous abilities as a leader were seen by the entire nation during the spring and throughout the 2012 season.
“His coaching style is extremely enthusiastic and he has always shown an incredible commitment to the development of student-athletes.”
Johnson served as interim head coach for the Razorbacks last year from April 5 through the end of spring drills and until the appointment of John L. Smith as interim headcoach on April 23.
Johnson went from having two seniors - captains Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright - as the starting linebackers to true freshman Peters and A.J. Turner, after Highsmith and Wright had their seasons end with injuries at the midway point. Peters and Turner combined to make nine starts. Turner started six games and finished fifth on the team with 53 tackles, while Peters started three games and had 32 tackles.
Johnson said he has had talks with incoming defensive coordinator Chris Ash and discussions with mutual friends that has helped him begin preparations for the new schemes.
“We more or less just talked about where we’re from and the people we knew and some of our philosophies,” Johnson said. “They were pretty much on line with things I’ve had during my coaching career.”
Johnson thanked former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel for allowing him to get coaching experience in the secondary.
“It really allowed me to expand my knowledge as a coach defensively and overall,” he said. “It has given me flexibility and, quite honestly, allowed me to have this opportunity to stay here at Arkansas, having coached on the back end.
“When you have the opportunity to coach the front and the back it makes you well rounded, and that’s all you ever want to be.”
Bielema has one on-field position left to fill, and it is believed the spot will be on offense, perhaps a tight ends coach or a tackles and tight ends coach. Former Razorback player and assistant coach Tim Horton is believed to be among a handful of coaches in consideration for that final spot. Horton,who has been on the UA staff since the 2007 season under Houston Nutt and has been recruiting coordinator since 2008, when Bobby Petrino took over as coach.
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/03/2013