Tressel Adds Assistant Coach With NFL Hire and Gets Familiar Name as Grad Assistant
By John Porentas
OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel has filled the coaching vacancy created when former cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman left his staff to take the defensive coordinators position at Oklahoma State. He also also hired a new graduate assistant with a familiar name for Buckeye fans.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tressel has hired Taver Johnson to fill the void created by Beckman's departure. Johnson comes to the OSU staff from the NFL Oakland Raiders staff where he was hired just this past February as a defensive line coach. Prior to taking the position at Oakland, Johnson was an Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at Miami of Ohio.
Johnson's Ohio roots go deep. He is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduate of CAPE. He attended college at Wittenberg University where he was a two-time All-American linebacker and was named North Coast Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the year in 1992-93.
Johnson began his coaching career at his alma mater where he coached linebackers in 1994-95. He moved on to Milikin University where he coached linebackers from 1995 through 1998 and also served as defensive coordinator in 1998.
Johnson joined Bob Davies' Notre Dame staff as a graduate assistant in 1999 before landing a job as a linebackers coach at Miami of Ohio where he coached form 2000-2003. He was with the Cleveland Browns in 2004 serving as assistant special teams coach. He returned to Miami of Ohio in 2005 as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
Though he has no ties to the Buckeyes as a player or coach, Johnson said that the Buckeyes have been a life-long passion for him.
"I was talking to Coach Tressel and some of the other coaches and I told them I could remember my brother and I would watch the replay of the whole (OSU) game on Sundays," he said.
"If we couldn't catch it on Saturday or whatever we would just beg our mom to let us stay home from church and catch the game. It really didn't matter what game. We wanted to sit there and watch the Earle Bruce Show and go through the whole clips and then watch the actual game."
Johnson was with the Raiders less-than a month when he had an opportunity to become a Buckeye.
"I had heard that Coach Beckman was leaving, but I didn't think anything of it because I really wasn't sure about what was going to happen. There had been some phone calls and some communication went on, and it really just came about all of a sudden to be honest with you. It was within the next couple of days that Coach Beckman left that I was actually here on a Sunday (interviewing with Tressel)," Johnson said.
A move as an assistant coach in the NFL to an assistant's job at the college level is not the norm, but Johnson cited his life-long interest in the Buckeyes as one of the primary factors in making that decision. The other is the fact that his wife, Sharday, is a former Columbus native and was excited about moving to Columbus.
"Being home, being back in Ohio and being here in Columbus is a tremendous feeling," said Johnson.
"My family is still back here in Ohio and my wife grew up here in Columbus. Yes, I left an organization that is definitely up and coming, some really good things are going on in Oakland, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be here in Columbus," he said.
While Johnson is happy about being here, there is some question as to whether the Raiders' organization is happy about losing him and may raise some questions of their own about his departure.
"There may be (questions) coming up, to be honest with you, but Coach (Lane) Kiffin (of the Raiders) when I sat down with him was really good about it. He understood. I wouldn't say he was happy about the decision, but he really understood," said Johnson.
"They really wanted me to stay. Being wanted is a really good feeling, because it could have been the opposite. That's why it was tough, it was tough leaving there to come here because of the good people in that organization."
Johnson has no experience with the defensive backfield, but will a defensive backfield coach with the Buckeyes.
"I'll be coaching corners, which obviously is different, however I think my experience in Cleveland with the special teams is really going to help me out there, because I really have to coach the corners on the punt return team and a lot of those techniques are the same in terms of corner play. Obviously there are some nuances that I'll have to learn but I'm really excited about the challenge," said Johnson.
"I've been a coordinator, I've been a front-seven guy and I've never actually coached in the back end so now I have the opportunity to do that. For me, I really feel like that is something that is going to help me as well in my career down the road."
Johnson is already honing his ability to coach defensive backs...with his three-year old son Brooklynn.
"My son will be three and I've got him back-pedaling already. I actually started that process about four months ago," Johnson laughed.
Johnson is a fiery individual with a real linebacker's mentality. In 2002 however, the fire got a little out of control. Johnson lost his cool in the press box at the Marshall vs. Miami football game and did some damage within the press box. Miami barred him from off-season recruiting and required him to pay for the press box damages. In that incident, Johnson threw a table into a wall after a Miami loss to Marshall.
"I only know one way to do it," said Johnson.
"When I met with some of the guys already I told them I don't know how to do anything else. I don't want to do anything else.
"The way I coach, that's my personality.
"I wear my emotions on my sleeve. When you see me, you'll know right away how I feel and what's going on. I'll never give you any facade, you'll never have to guess anything about me. That's the one thing I can guarantee. I've got linebacker emotions and we're taking them back into the secondary now," Johnson said.
Johnson is not sure what his recruiting duties will entail, but has a background of recruiting in the Buckeye state.
"When I was at Wittenberg I recruited Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati, pretty much all over Ohio, Northwest Ohio and some up in Michigan and down in Georgia so I've kind of all over a little bit. It's really just getting the lay of the land again, getting in contact with high school coaches," he said.
Fred Pagac Jr.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Also joining Tressel's staff this month is former OSU linebacker Fred Pagac Jr. Pagac attempted to continue his playing career after his eligibility expired, but that didn't work out for him.
"I graduated in 2004 so, I've been gone for about three years," said Pagac.
"I got signed by the Rams after here briefly, went to NFL Europe for a season and got hurt. I tore my knee up pretty bad, had a couple of surgeries, the usual. I had to take care of that because I was under contract. When I got done with that I started working for State Farm and have been doing that for the last year now," said Pagac.
Pagac said the business world just didn't fill his need to stay in touch with football.
"I wasn't too much of a fan of the business world. I wanted to give it a try, it's what I majored in, it's what I thought I would be doing.
"I would wake up in the morning and it was just another day. Yesterday I had to get up early in the morning to come to morning conditioning and I was excited again. This is the only thing I've ever known, the only thing I've ever loved. I'm going to go back to school and be the graduate assistant," Pagac said.
Pugac is the son of former OSU tight end, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator and current Minnesota Vikings assistant Coach Fred Pagac Sr. Pagac said his father at first tried to talk him out of making a move into coaching, but is now supportive.
"He's very excited. He tried to talk me out of coaching at first, but it's the only thing I enjoy, so I had to go for it," said Pagac.
"I'm mostly going to be working with the defensive line with Coach Heacock a lot. Other than that, I'm not really sure," said Pagac of his duties with the Buckeyes.
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