State of the Hogs: High Praise

Taver Johnson comes highly recommended by former Ohio State coach John Cooper. That makes two from the Buckeye staff moving to Arkansas that Cooper rates as top notch.

John Cooper has become an Arkansas fan from his home in Columbus, Ohio. The former Ohio State football coach said he'll be following the Hogs much more closely since Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson joined Bobby Petrino's Arkansas coaching staff.

Haynes (safeties) and Johnson (cornerbacks) had coached the Ohio State secondary together the last five seasons. Haynes moves to Arkansas as defensive coordinator/safeties, Johnson as assistant head coach/linebackers.

Cooper said most of his retirement afternoons have been spent watching Haynes and Johnson coach at practice.

"That's right," Haynes said at the Cotton Bowl. "I think as an old secondary coach, Coach Cooper came out each day and watched our guys."

Cooper liked what he saw.

"I am an old DB coach," Cooper said. "I probably would have gone down to that end of the field anyway, but I think part of the reason I did was because I really thought they could coach.

"Arkansas got two of our better coaches. I like 'em both. I think they can coach, but I like them as people, too, and that's more important.

"I have great respect for both of them and I've become an Arkansas fan since ya'll got them.

"They both coach their guys hard. They are not cool, fold-your-arms types. I don't like that kind. They get in your face and that's why I like them."

Cooper said the new UA linebackers coach is a ball of fire.

"He's excitable and he will get after you," Cooper said. "That's a given. His players played hard and good. Ohio State is going to miss both Paul and Taver. What I can tell you is that they had a good secondary every year. Even when they lost players to the NFL, they'd take new ones and they'd play good, too. They are my type coaches."

Haynes and Johnson have been good friends since they found themselves sitting in the same seminar at the 1994 coaching convention. Johnson had a good story about that meeting at his Fayetteville introduction this week.

"That was the first year I went to the convention," Johnson said. "I was coaching the defensive line and I remember it was the first time I'd heard the phrase cover four. I turned to the guy next to me and said, 'What is this cover four.' It was Paul. We've been really good friends since."

Apparently, they brother-in-law it pretty well as assistant coaches. Johnson said they provide "balance" in their approach to their on-field craft.

"Paul is cerebral," Johnson said. "He has an intelligent approach to it. I think he wants to understand how it works. He has high expectations, wants accountability and thinks things through.

"I think I bring some energy. I wear energy on my sleeve, with no facade."

Later, Johnson called his good friend "more mild mannered" than himself.

"He'll get excited, too," Johnson said. "But I know him really good and I'm probably more (excitable)."

The Haynes style of Xs and Os is more about energy than complicated stunts and blitzes.

That's been clear in the way Haynes outlined his methods before the Cotton Bowl. Johnson went over that with his new players earlier this week.

"When I met with our players, I told them that what we do is very simple," Johnson said, "but I told them simple was not easy."

Perhaps the only thing easy was Bobby Petrino's decision to hire both Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson.

Taver Johnson works his players while at Ohio State.

Photo courtesy Buckeye Sports Bulletin

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