From 2001-05, Anthony Johnson played running back at Texas. And by that, we mean he mostly stood and watched as Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles played running back for the Longhorns.
Now his job is to recruit and develop the next Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles.
Johnson was announced as Texas’ new running backs coach on Saturday, making this his third stint with the burnt orange and white following a run a quality control assistant from 2007-09. Johnson replaces Tommie Robinson, who returned to a role with USC last month.
“Our entire staff thought that Anthony was a perfect fit to coach our running backs,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. “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 arrives from Toledo, where he was recently promoted to co-offensive coordinator. He served as the Rockets’ running backs coach for the previous two seasons, seasons in which the northeastern UT led the MAC in rushing. Kareem Hunt was the league’s leading per-game rusher in both seasons, averaging 163.1 yards in 2015 and 108.1 in ’14.
Prior to Toledo, Johnson spent four seasons as Sam Houston State’s running backs coach. His star pupil in Huntsville was running back Timothy Flanders, who earned three nods as an FCS All-American, was named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (FCS’s answer to the Heisman), and twice won the Southland Conference Player of the Year honor.
“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 (Gilbert), 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.”
Texas ranked 17th nationally in rushing last season despite limping to a 5-7 record. The ‘Horns return leading rusher D'Onta Foreman (681 yards on 7.17 yards per carry, five touchdowns), a junior, sophomore Chris Warren (470 yards on 6.62 yards per carry, four touchdowns), sophomore Kirk Johnson (eight carries for 44 yards) and incoming freshman Kyle Porter.