Saturday Update: After considering a new offer from Tennessee, Volquest now reports Johnson will take the FSU spot after all.
Update: It appears Tennessee is fighting to keep Johnson. Stay tuned.
JUST IN: Vols RB coach David Johnson @CoachYACJohnson has an offer from Florida State and a NEW offer from Tennessee.— Austin Price (@AustinPriceless) January 3, 2020
Just spoke to him where he told me, “He is currently mulling over the decision with his family. No decision has been made yet.”
One of the dominoes of the coaching carousel season is about to fall in Knoxville, according to Bruce Feldman. Running backs coach David Johnson is expected to leave Tennessee for the same job at Florida State.
Our readers shouldn’t be totally surprised. We mentioned the possibility of Johnson heading to Florida State in an earlier article, which gave an overview of some coaches to keep an eye on. We pointed out that Johnson was originally hired by Pruitt from the Memphis Tigers staff. The head coach at that time? Mike Norvell. Once Norvell accepted the FSU opening, this was always a possibility.
Johnson came to Tennessee as the wide receivers coach in 2018. He walked into a locker room full of talented athletes and helped produce one of the more promising units in an otherwise disappointing year. How much of that was his work? How much of that was the receivers simply using their natural talent? Hard to say. Tennessee’s receivers were noticeably good at high-pointing the ball and getting physical with defensive backs, which is usually a sign of quality coaching. Somewhat interesting was the decision to move Johnson to running backs after Tee Martin’s hiring. There’s largely been no difference in their quality of play.
Johnson’s coaching this year was more or less marginal. That has nothing to do with him specifically however, because running back coaches aren’t asked to do much in terms of technical teaching. They are primarily recruiters.
Thankfully for Tennessee, Johnson did that job very well in his time. In his two years at Tennessee, Johnson played a pivotal role in grabbing 4-star wide receiver Ramel Keyton, 4-star running back Eric Gray, 4-star linebackers Martavius French and Bryson Eason, 4-star defensive tackle Omari Thomas, 4-star running back/linebacker Len’neth Whitehead, and more. The small amount of receivers in the 2019 class was disappointing, but it’s hard to get mad at Johnson when he did a fantastic job everywhere else.
Tennessee will need to find someone with similar Memphis connections who can lock down the more talented in-state players like Johnson did. This isn’t the most devastating hire from an on field coaching standpoint, but it does sting on the recruiting trail. Johnson was reliable and really began flexing his muscles this season. Now, he’s reportedly on his way to Tallahassee, and Tennessee will have a staff opening.