Texas' Charlie Strong hires Anthony Johnson as RB coach - the preferred choice of new OC Sterlin Gilbert.
MY TAKE - I like this hire for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost, I like it because in hiring Anthony Johnson as RB coach, Charlie Strong hired the preferred choice of new OC Sterlin Gilbert.
Here’s a few other things to zero in on as it pertains to Johnson:
#1 … He’s a power spread running game guy having worked with rising star HC Matt Campbell at Toledo the past two years before Campbell left to take the job at Iowa State.
#2 … Johnson played at Texas (2001-04) and served as a staff assistant (QC) at Texas (2007-09).
So he knows the ins and outs of Longhorn Nation (the good, bad and ugly … i.e. the politics, etc.) and has ties to a golden age in the program.
#3 … Johnson is a former Texas high school (assistant) coach at his own high school – Jefferson HS – in BEast Texas. So he would become a third member of the Texas High School Coaches Association to join Strong’s staff – along with Jeff Traylor and Gilbert.
#4 … Johnson also spent four years as RB coach at Sam Houston State in Huntsville. So for all those wondering if Johnson can recruit?
Those I talked to said Johnson is very well liked/respected by the coaches of the powerhouse programs in East Texas, the Golden Triangle and in Houston.
UT's official release
Johnson named running backs coach at Texas
Former Longhorns player and staff member and 10-year coaching veteran Anthony Johnson has been named running backs coach at Texas.
AUSTIN – Anthony Johnson, a former member of the Longhorns football team (2001-05) and staff, and a 10-year coaching veteran who was recently named co-offensive coordinator at Toledo, has been named running backs coach at Texas, head coach Charlie Strong announced Saturday.
“There’s no way I could put into words how excited I am about the opportunity to come back to Texas and be the running backs coach,” Johnson said. “I grew up a Longhorn fan, played at Texas and bleed orange through and through. This is just an awesome day for me and my family!”
“Our entire staff thought that Anthony was a perfect fit to coach our running backs,” Strong said. “He’s a tremendous young coach with great energy and enthusiasm. Anthony played high school ball in Texas, played and coached at Texas and really knows the pride and tradition of our place and our state well. He’s a guy that has played running back at a high level, who also has gained a great deal of experience coaching the position and just has so much passion for the game and drive as a coach. You could really see that during our visits, and I know Sterlin (Gilbert) and the offensive staff really hit it off with him, too. He’ll be a super addition to our staff, and we’re looking forward to getting him here.”
Johnson spent the last two seasons as running backs coach at Toledo where he helped guide an offense that led the Mid-American Conference in rushing both seasons, ranking 12th in the nation in 2014 (256.4 ypg), and 27th in 2015 (207.9 ypg). The Rockets were a combined 19-6 in that time with two bowl wins.
“I’ve obviously been watching the program from afar for years, and I have great admiration for Coach Strong,” Johnson said. “After spending some time in Austin with him and his staff recently, you can really feel the energy of what’s going on at Texas. Coach Strong is a great football coach and a man of integrity who has so much passion for the kids and the program. There’s just a special feeling around him and the program right now. I know there are big things in the future for Texas football, and I can’t wait to get down there and be a part of it.
"I spent a lot of time with Sterlin, Matt (Mattox) and Jeff (Traylor), and I feel like I really connected with them. They’re all tremendous football coaches with a great vision for what they want to accomplish. I love what they’re bringing offensively, and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach in a very similar style of offense for years. I’m really looking forward to getting in that room with all of the talented running backs at Texas and playing my role to help get the offense going."
Last year, the Rockets ranked 30th nationally in total offense (460.9 ypg) and 31st in scoring offense (35.0 ppg). They finished with a 10-2 record, including regular season wins at Arkansas and against Iowa State, and capped the season by defeating Temple in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl.
The rushing attack featured a pair of second-team All-MAC selections in Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson, who both surpassed 900 rushing yards and averaged over 80 yards per game. Despite playing in only nine contests, Hunt led the team with 973 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 178 carries (5.47 ypc) for an average of 108.1 ypg, leading the MAC and ranking 23rd in the nation. Swanson was just behind with 923 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 143 carries for an average of 6.45 yards per carry, which ranked 17th in the nation. Damion Jones-Moore added 410 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a coach, going back to when I was drawing up plays for my pee-wee football coach,” Johnson said. “I’ve been so fortunate to have great mentors that have helped me grow as a coach and a person over the years. I can’t thank Coach (Mack) Brown enough for everything he’s done for me, and the coaches I worked with in the running back room at Texas, Ken Rucker and Mike Haywood. When I think about the great players I was able to play with or work with as a student and grad assistant at Texas – Cedric Benson, Selvin Young, Chris Ogbonnaya, Jamaal Charles and Fozzy Whittaker – it reminds me of the people that I watched and learned so much from. I really appreciate Coach Willie Fritz giving me my first chance to be a full-time assistant at Sam Houston State. We were able to win a lot of games there and I learned a lot. I’ve just been so fortunate in my career and am really looking forward to this great opportunity."
In 2014, besides ranking 12th in rushing, the Toledo offense was 15th nationally in total offense (490.5 ypg) and 19th in scoring (36.6 ppg). Hunt ranked third in the nation in rushing yards per game (163.1 ypg), 10th in rushing yards (1,631), 14th in rushing touchdowns (16) and second in yards per carry (7.96). Despite playing in only 10 games, his 1,631 rushing yards was the second-highest single-season mark in Toledo history. He earned first-team All-MAC honors and was the MVP of the GoDaddy Bowl, rushing for 271 yards in the victory.
Hunt missed three games and parts of two others due to injuries. During his absence, Swanson and Jones-Moore stepped in, and Toledo won four of those five games, averaging more than 284 yards rushing. Swanson finished the season with 732 yards rushing, while Jones-Moore added 460. Toledo finished the season with a 9-4 record and a win over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl.
Prior to his arrival at Toledo, Johnson served as running backs coach at Sam Houston State from 2010-13, playing a key role in the Bearkats’ 40-15 record in those four seasons and their back-to-back appearances in the FCS national championship game. Sam Houston State’s running backs led an offense that produced 38 school records during Johnson’s tenure. In the four years Johnson was with RB Timothy Flanders, he helped him become a three-time All-American, three-time Walter Payton Award finalist, two-time Southland Conference Player of the Year, and four-time all-conference selection who more than doubled the school’s career rushing yards and rushing touchdown records with 5,664 yards and 66 touchdowns. Flanders went on to sign as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. Johnson also tutored Keshawn Hill who finished fourth on the SHSU’s all-time rushing list (2,546 yards/34 TDs).
In 2013, SHSU ranked fourth in the nation in scoring offense (41.1 ppg/No. 1 Southland), sixth in rushing offense (265.0 ypg/No. 1 Southland), and fifth in rushing touchdowns (40). Flanders earned second-team All-America honors while amassing a conference-best 1,430 rushing yards to rank 12th in the nation, along with 14 rushing touchdowns on 241 attempts (5.9 ypc). He registered three games of 170 or more yards, including one against Texas A&M, with a high of 280 yards against Eastern Washington. Two other backs cleared the 400-yard mark for the season with Hill being tabbed honorable mention All-Southland (536 yards/eight TDs). Sam Houston State finished the year 9-5 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs before falling by one point to Southeastern Louisiana.
The 2012 Bearkats ranked second in the nation in scoring (40.0 ppg) and seventh in rushing yards (268.3 ypg), setting the school record for single-season rushing yards (4,025). The team scored 600 points, a mark only two other teams in FCS had reached at the time. Flanders picked up third-team All-America honors and was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year after rushing for 1,642 yards and 17 touchdowns on 288 carries (5.7 ypc), including 231 yards against Eastern Washington. Hill also garnered all-conference honors as a third-team selection, finishing with 530 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Sam Houston State posted an 11-4 record, tied for the conference championship, and advanced all the way to the national championship game.
The 2011 season was one of the best in school history for Sam Houston State as the team put together 14 consecutive victories, including the school’s first 11-0 regular season, was the top seed in the FCS playoffs and played in its first national championship game. The rushing attack was the strength of the offense, leading the Southland and ranking sixth in the nation with 255.9 yards per game. It also helped the offense lead the Southland and rank fourth in the nation in scoring offense (36.9 ppg).
Flanders was an AFCA first-team All-American and the Southland Player of the Year, ranking fourth in the nation in scoring (9.6 ppg) and 16th in rushing (109.6 ypg), He set 14 school records, including single-season rushing yards (1,644), rushing touchdowns (22), total touchdowns (24) and all-purpose yards (2,058), and single-game rushing yards (287 vs. Montana), while also leading the team with 34 receptions for 414 yards. The rushing yards and total touchdowns were also Southland Conference records. Two other running backs exceeded 300 yards in Hill (330/1 TD) and Ryan Wilson (371/5 TDs).
In Johnson’s first season at SHSU, he helped guide the nation’s 26th-ranked rushing offense (186.5 ypg). Flanders was the Southland Conference Co-Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-league selection, leading the Southland in rushing yards (978) and rushing touchdowns (13). He ranked second in the conference and 19th in the nation in scoring with 7.8 points per game.
Prior to his time at Sam Houston, Johnson served on the quality control staff at Texas for three seasons (2007-09). He worked as an assistant to the running backs coach, helping analyze video and breaking down opposing defensive reports. In that time, Texas compiled a 35-5 record, won Fiesta Bowl and Holiday Bowl titles and played in the National Championship Game following the 2009 season.
In 2009, the running backs corps rushed for 1,665 yards and 24 TDs. Tre’ Newton emerged to lead the team in rushing, helping fill the void of Chris Ogbonnaya, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round.
The running backs combined to rush for 1,371 yards and 20 TDs in 2008. The group only lost one fumble during the season and showed versatility by combining for 65 receptions for 640 yards and three TDs, led by Ogbonnaya, who set the UT?single-season record for receptions by a running back with 46.
Jamaal Charles earned unanimous first-team All-Big 12 honors and a selection as a Doak Walker Award semifinalist in 2007. Charles rushed for 1,619 yards (No. 5 on UT’s single-season list) and 18 TDs (No. 8 NCAA/T-No. 5 on UT’s single-season list) and went on to be a third-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnson was an assistant coach at Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Texas, in 2006, coaching two all-district running backs. The team went 10-2, winning the bidistrict championship.
From 2001-05, Johnson was a member of the Longhorns football team as a running back and later as a student assistant with the running backs due to injury. He participated in teams that won the 2005 National Championship, the Rose Bowl following the 2004 season, the Cotton Bowl following the 2002 season, and the 2001 Holiday Bowl. He received a degree from Texas in applied learning and development in 2005.
Johnson and his wife, Erica, are the parents of a daughter, London, and a son, Walker.