Johnson, 51, comes to State from The Citadel, where he has served the last three seasons as the school's head football coach. The military institution based in Charleston, S.C., posted a 12-22 record during Johnson's three seasons as head coach, but finished the 2003 campaign with a 6-6 mark. It was the best record at The Citadel in six years.
A veteran coach of over a quarter-century in the coaching profession, it was a third homecoming for the former Citadel player. He served as defensive ends coach at his alma mater in 1975 to begin his coaching career and returned as linebacker coach in 1982, a pair of one-year stints. Johnson's varied background includes work at the high school, small college, I-AA and major college levels. He has coached in four Southeastern Conference championship games and tutored 19 players who have made National Football League rosters.
Prior to his head coaching responsibilities the past three years, Johnson was defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach at the University of Alabama from 1997-2000. During that four-year stay in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide finished the 1999 season 10-3, won the Southeastern Conference championship over Florida 34-7 in the league title game, and earned a berth in the 2000 Orange Bowl. That team had the nation's second-best rushing defense, a unit that ranked ninth nationally in total defense. He also helped UA to a Music City Bowl appearance in 1998.
That tenure in Tuscaloosa was his second with the Tide. He spent four years (1990-93) as Alabama's outside linebacker coach, helping Gene Stallings' teams to a 41-9 record on the field. He helped the 1992 UA team go undefeated, win the SEC title, and earn unanimous national championship acclaim. His linebackers were an integral part to Alabama's defense ranking first nationally in both total defense and against the run. The '91 team finished 11-1, losing only to Florida. All four Tide teams ended their seasons in postseason bowl games: the 1991 Fiesta, the '91 Blockbuster, the '93 Sugar, and the '93 Gator.
Between stints at Alabama, Johnson spent three seasons at Clemson (1994-96), the first two as outside linebackers coach the final as defensive coordinator and defensive line instructor. Those last two Tiger teams concluded their seasons in the '96 Gator and '96 Peach Bowls. He helped that '95 defense rank 10th nationally overall and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense.
Prior to his initial stay with the Crimson Tide, Johnson was the defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (1988-89). On the staff of Curley Hallman at USM, those two teams finished 15-8 overall, and earned a post-season bowl reward at the Independence Bowl in 1988.
Between his second stint at The Citadel and the two-year stay in Hattiesburg, Johnson worked in the state of North Carolina. He was head coach at Gardner Webb College (1983), defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984) and outside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at East Carolina (1985-87). Gardner Webb was ranked No. 1 in NAIA District 26. He also has six years of high school coaching experience in the state of South Carolina on his resume.
Johnson played defensive end for Bobby Ross-coached Citadel teams in the early 1970s, and his coaching career began under Ross during that 1975 season.
A native of Winnsboro, S.C., Johnson is married to the former Caroline Courie of Columbia, S.C. The couple has one son, Eli, and a daughter, Sandra.