Johnson excited to coach at Arkansas, in the SEC

Johnson excited to coach at Arkansas, in the SEC

Published Jan. 17, 2012 10:20 p.m. ET

Taver Johnson didn't need to hear much of Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes' sales pitch before deciding to become the Razorbacks' new linebackers coach.

''Come on, let's go,'' Haynes told Johnson. ''We can do this.''

The excitement he heard in Haynes' words was more than enough for Johnson, who spent the past five seasons at Ohio State. He was introduced at Arkansas on Tuesday, promising to bring a high-energy and emotional approach to a program that has won 21 games the last two seasons.

Johnson replaces Reggie Johnson, who left to become the defensive coordinator at Alabama-Birmingham. Taver Johnson, a Cincinnati native, will also hold the title of assistant head coach to Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino, and he said that and the prospect of coaching in the Southeastern Conference played roles in his decision.


''It was a difficult decision, obviously being an Ohioan and my family being there and things like that,'' Johnson said. ''But the opportunity here that coach Petrino and Arkansas has ... Like I told the players last night, `The way this train is rolling, it's going pretty fast.' To tell you what, we didn't mind trying to hop on board.''

Johnson was retained as the Buckeyes cornerbacks coach following the hiring of Urban Meyer last month. However, the added coaching responsibility and the prospect of reuniting with Haynes were too much to pass up.

Johnson and Haynes met during a coaching convention in 1994. When Haynes left Ohio State last month to become Arkansas' defensive coordinator, Johnson quickly heard the excitement in Haynes' voice as he prepared for the Cotton Bowl - which the Razorbacks won 29-16 over Kansas State.

He takes over a linebacker corps that must replace middle linebacker Jerry Franklin, who led Arkansas in tackles in each of the last four seasons. The Razorbacks were ninth in the SEC in total defense this season, allowing an average of 364 yards per game.

Johnson knows that won't do moving forward, not if Arkansas wants to improve on its season-ending No. 5 ranking. The Razorbacks' only losses this season came to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU.

''Being around (Haynes) for the last five years, for sure, working with him, I understand how he thinks, his expectations,'' Johnson said. ''They will be through the roof for the coaching staff as well as the players.''

Johnson had never been to Arkansas before his hiring on Sunday, but he was familiar with the program after the Buckeyes played the Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl last season. He was also familiar with Petrino from when he was the defensive coordinator at Miami (Ohio), during which time the two faced off on the GMAC Bowl while Petrino was at Louisville.

''I know he's tough,'' Johnson said. ''He's more like a defensive coach out there when you see him on the sideline with the energy and passion that he has. That was something that was definitely appealing.''

Johnson has also spent two seasons coaching in the NFL, one season each with Oakland and Cleveland.