Johnson is to be announced Thursday as the new pitching coach at the University of Arkansas. It is the same post he has filled at Mississippi State since only last October 22, and will be the second SEC job for the native of Sherwood, Arkansas.
Noted for his ability to develop ‘power’ style pitching, Johnson meshed well with the 2016 Diamond Dog pitching staff. The results were radical improvements as Mississippi State went from last in 2015 SEC earned run average to fifth-best.
Junior RHP Dakota Hudson (9-5, 2.55) was exhibit A as he went from a ’15 backup in limited innings to throwing 113 frames with 115 strikeouts. Hudson in the process was named first-team All-SEC and made various all-American teams, but even better was drafted in the first round by St. Louis last Thursday. Hudson has not signed yet but is expected to ink his contract soon.
Junior RHP Austin Sexton made comparable progress, becoming an every-weekend starter with a 8-3 record and 3.56 ERA and going from 61 to 98 strikeouts.
Hudson and Sexton were two of the five primary pitchers off the 2016 staff drafted, along with RHP Zac Houston, LHP Daniel Brown, and LHP Vance Tatum. Also, Johnson got OF Reid Humphreys back on the mound for the first time since his junior high school season and made him a closer worth of drafting as a pitcher, too. The five full-time pitchers drafted is a Mississippi State record.
Johnson was a hasty hire for State last October. It followed the departure of seven-year pitching coach Butch Thompson to become head coach at Auburn. After being turned down by Jason Dietrich of Cal State Fullerton—who ironically did come to Dudy Noble Field for the Starkville Regional and lost to State—Coach John Cohen turned to Johnson, then at Dallas Baptist.
Johnson was at DBU from 2012-15, which was his first job outside the state of Arkansas. An alumnus of Arkansas-Monticello he was an assistant at three of the state’s high schools; then worked at Central Arkansas and Southern Arkansas in the college ranks.
Johnson is the second loss off Cohen’s staff in the week. Eight-year aide Nick Mingione has been hired at Kentucky as head coach. Mingione was on Cohen’s Wildcat staff in 2006-07.