When Kerry Coombs left the Ohio State Buckeyes to be the secondaries coach for the Tennessee Titans, head coach Urban Meyer knew he would have his hands full when it came to finding a replacement. Not only would it be tough to replace Coombs’ energy and enthusiasm both on and off the field, but his greatness on the recruiting trail and translating that into All-Americans and NFL talent is very tough to replicate.
Although Coombs will be tough to replace, Meyer seems to have made a home-run hire, bringing back former Ohio State cornerbacks coach and most recently Temple defensive coordinator Taver Johnson, who was the cornerbacks coach on Jim Tressel’s staff in Columbus from 2007-11,1 the school announced on Tuesday.
“I am really pleased to have Taver Johnson join our coaching staff,” Meyer said. “I’ve known Taver for a long time, going back to our days at Notre Dame, and I think he is a terrific coach and person. He’ll do an excellent job coaching our cornerbacks and mentoring the young men in our program.”
Johnson, a native of Cincinnati who played at and started his coaching career at Wittenberg University, has had ties to Ohio his entire life. Not only did he previously coach at Ohio State, but Johnson has coached at Miami and with the Browns as well. Combined, he has spent over half his coaching career coaching somewhere in Ohio. Also, during his 21 years as a coach, he has had a wide variety of positions on defense. His versatility will be yet another nice addition to the Buckeyes. Let’s take a look at his coaching career to date:
- 1994-95: Wittenberg, Defensive Line coach
- 1996-98: Millikin, Strength and Conditioning coach (1996); Linebackers coach (1997); Defensive coordinator (1998)
- 1999: Notre Dame, Defensive Graduate assistant
- 2000-03: Miami (Ohio), Linebackers coach
- 2004: Cleveland Browns, Special Teams coordinator
- 2005-06: Miami (Ohio), Assistant head coach, Defensive Coordinator
- 2007-11: Ohio State, Cornerbacks coach
- 2012-13: Arkansas, Assistant head coach and Linebackers coach (2012); Defensive Backs coach (2013)
- 2014-16: Purdue, Defensive Backs coach
- 2017: Temple, Defensive coordinator, safeties coach
During his first tenure at Ohio State, Johnson coached three All-Americans: cornerbacks Malcolm Jenkins,2 and Chimdi Chekwa, and safety Kurt Coleman. All three were eventually selected in the NFL Draft. Most recently, Jenkins just won his second Super Bowl title, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles.3
While talking to Eleven Warriors’ Dan Hope about Johnson returning to the Buckeyes, Chekwa had nothing but nice things to say about his former cornerbacks coach at Ohio State.
“I remember, as a player, Coach Johnson brought the energy every single day,” Chekwa said. “To be able to get a young individual’s attention every single day and get through to them, it’s a tough, tough task, and he was able to do that.”
“You need coaches who can be a little more than just coaches,” he said. “You’re playing football at Ohio State, you’re very, very close to playing professional football. You’re not getting paid to play and stuff, but outside of that, everything else is like professional football, and it’s not an easy adjustment. So you need someone to help you with that adjustment process, and I think Coach Johnson’s the right guy to do it.”
While with the Buckeyes from 2007-11, he primarily recruited the Cleveland and northern Ohio area as an assistant with Tressel. With that, along with him being from Cincinnati, Johnson will be a key in-state recruiter on Meyer’s staff, filling a bit of the hole that Coombs left. The 45-year-old has big shoes to fill on the recruiting trail, but he has the experience to make up for it and maybe even exceed expectations.
With Coombs’ departure along with the new NCAA rule that allows program’s to hire a 10th assistant, Ohio State has hired two defensive coordinators this offseason. Along with Johnson, the Buckeyes also added former Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, one of the most respected young, up-and-coming defensive coordinators in college football. Adding those two to a defensive staff that already has Greg Schiano is impressive, to say the least. Keep in mind, Schiano was just named 247Sports’ Big Ten Recruiter of the Year and decided to remain with the Buckeyes after turning down multiple job offers. That three-headed tandem will likely keep the dominance that is the Silver Bullets going in Columbus, even though Coombs is no longer on board.
When Meyer came to Columbus prior to the 2012 season, he initially retained Johnson, but the assistant decided to become the linebackers coach at Arkansas, where he inevitably spent just one season with the Razorbacks. It seems as though he, along with Meyer, wanted him to eventually be a Buckeye again. Due to the way things have worked out, he has done just that. Johnson is different than Coombs, but he is a big-time hire for Meyer and the Buckeyes.