College coaches get paid good money -- much more than many of the fans that support their salaries -- for their work. In return, they work long hours, endure criticism, and face the chance that their jobs could be gone at any moment. Some say its a fair trade-off, but at its core its still a person, and in many cases a family, affected by decisions they have little involvement with.
Given that background, is it any wonder that some coaches are less than forthcoming with their public statements, or are often uncooperative? That's not the case with West Virginia offensive line coach Dave Johnson, however, who credits his faith with helping him through what is expected to be his final game at his alma mater.
"Life isn't fair sometimes, there are things that you don't ask to happen but they happen. So, we have to go on," Johnson said philosophically when asking how he was handling the offensive staff shakeup that will likely result in him losing his job at WVU. "I love Coach Stew for what he did for me for giving me this opportunity in coming back home and being close to family. I am very grateful for that, and to the University for giving me this chance."
Some coaches in this situation might lash out, and others might not coach in a final game given their lame duck status, but Johnson isn't built that way. Say what you will about his coaching ability, or the production of his players during his tenure, but he knows that isn't the be-all and end-all of his existence.
"Those things aren't my source," he said, explaining his outlook on being let go. "I try to keep my faith in what is lasting, and that's my relationship with the Lord and with my family, and that's my source. What's going to last is the quality of my life and my relationships with God and my players and my family. So that is what is important to me."
Johnson hasn't discussed his situation as a group with his players yet, but if he does, he plans it to be a low-key conversation that doesn't rile any controversy.
"A lot of the guys called me [when they heard about the coaching changes], and have been coming in to see me individually. I think they have handled it well, and I haven't seen any problems or distractions with them. I have not addressed them as a group yet, but I may do that once we get close to the end here and let them know how I feel about them. It's been a very good group. I haven't had a problem with them doing what they have been supposed to do."
Johnson acknowledged that the rigors of coaching, coupled with the uncertain job security, has been hard on his family, and as such he hopes that he gets the chance to enjoy what looks to be his final trip at WVU with them.
"Being in my 14th bowl, it's a great time to reflect and enjoy it," he said of the four days in Orlando. The hard work is pretty much over now. We want to let guys enjoy the bowl and what it has to offer. I hope will have some time with family and kids, because they have paid a price this year as well."
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In a bit of a refreshing change, Johnson was also able to discuss some on-field items concerning the bowl game. He's concerned about West Virginia's ability to get to a speedy Wolfpack front seven that compares favorably to a pair of standout defensive units the Mountaineers faced this year.
"Their linebacker corp almost looks like they are floating -- it doesn't even seem like they are running," he said of a unit that has had some ups and downs, but moves very well. "They bring pressure about half the time, and they do a great job of disguising things, just like our defense does. Our quarterback will have to be sharp, and our running backs will have to be sharp to recognize and run great hot routes."
Left unsaid in that statement is the fact that his group will also have to be on their game to pick up the blitzes and rushes utilized by N.C. State. Without doubt, the Wolfpack have watched video of WVU's struggles against Syracuse and Louisville, which both used a variety of pressure packages to keep the Mountaineer offense in check. However, Johnson indicated that West Virginia has learned some things of its own from video study, and believes it has a plan to combat the Wolfpack defense. Still, their raw speed is a cause for concern.
"Their front seven is pretty darn fast," Johnson summed up. If they're not LSU, they are close. They are comparable to South Florida too."