The combination of transfers at his position and a strong spring performance led some to forecast a breakout 2018 season for Taariq Johnson. Instead, the wide receiver will be plying his football wares elsewhere.
Earlier this week, Cal’s Justin Wilcox confirmed that Johnson has decided to transfer out of his football program. No specific reason for what was an abrupt decision to part ways was given.
“You want to keep everybody,” the head coach said by way of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not ideal, but it’s just part of the deal. It’s a little bit of an anomaly because there’s been more attrition at one position, but we’re excited about the guys coming back.”
Johnson was a three-star member of the Golden Bears’ 2017 recruiting class. He took a redshirt as a true freshman, but capped off an eye-opening spring by catching a pair of passes for 26 yards in the spring game.
The most noteworthy departure from Cal’s receiving corps the last few months was Demetris Robertson, who led the team in receiving in 2016 before missing most of the 2017 season because of a lower-body injury. After leaving earlier this offseason, Robertson ultimately transferred to Georgia.
In addition to Robertson and Johnson, Cal also lost Melquise Stovall to transfer this offseason. Stovall totaled 42 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns during his time in Berkeley, with all of those coming during the 2016 season. In May, Stovall announced via Twitter his decision to transfer to an Arizona junior college.
Virginia Tech has promoted director of player development Justin Hamilton to safeties coach, the program announced Monday.
“Justin has more than proven his mettle to our staff over the past year and has earned this opportunity to take the next step in his football career,” head Hokie Justin Fuente said in a statement. “We know how invested Justin is in the continued success of our program. He’s a bright and talented coach who has built a solid rapport with our players and football staff. Coach Foster and I are both excited to expand his responsibilities with our team.”
A former Hokie player himself, Hamilton spent the bulk of this decade coaching at smaller programs in the Commonwealth. He was UVA-Wise’s defensive coordinator from 2011-13 and coached linebackers at VMI from 2014-17.
Hamilton fills a void created by the departure of current safeties coach Tyrone Nix. Virginia Tech officially said goodbye to him on Monday by announcing his departure for Ole Miss, though Ole Miss has yet to say anything as of press time.
Derrick Nix is on staff as Ole Miss’ running backs coach.
Southern Miss reportedly has its offensive coordinator, and the hire is more notable for who it’s not than who it is.
After the fiasco that was Art Briles‘ interview and interview postscript, Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson has decided to go with the decidedly uncontroversial choice of Arkansas State offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, according to FootballScoop. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)
Faulkner spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, and prior to that spent four in a similar role at Middle Tennessee. Faulkner’s first stint as an offensive coordinator came in 2010 at Murray State, where his Racers offense became the first in FCS history to post a 500-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the same game.
Faulkner takes over for Shannon Dawson, who was let go and subsequently became the tight ends coach at Houston.
Southern Miss finished No. 109 nationally in yards per play and No. 90 in scoring; the Golden Eagles went 6-5 but did not garner a bowl bid last season. Arkansas State, meanwhile, was No. 31 in yards per play and No. 55 in scoring.
If you ever have the pleasure of standing in the presence of a high-level college or professional football player, you’ll be struck at just how big those dudes are. Obviously, they’re larger than the average male and especially so the closer you get to the ball — but if your only exposure to this small slice of the population is what you see on television, it’s easy to lose perspective at just how much larger they are than the remainder of the human population.
And any time I happen to be in the presence of a Power 5 or NFL player, one thought comes to my mind: “It’s someone’s job to move him in a direction he very much does not want to go.”
Case in point: TCU running back Sewo Olonilua. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Olonilua is among the largest running backs in college football. And as the video below shows, he’s also among the strongest.
Now consider the following: Olonilau totaled 135 carries for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. This means that on 133 of his 135 carries — 98.5 percent of his attempts — someone (or someones) brought Olonilau — again, a 231-pound running back who can squat 705 pounds twice — to the ground or pushed him out of bounds.
The graduate transfer has become a great vehicle for Group of 5 and FCS players who over-perform at their level to shoot their shot at a Power 5 program. But Iowa this weekend added an extremely rare Division II-to-Power 5 graduate transfer.
Zach VanValkenburg on Saturday pledged his commitment to Iowa after being pursued by multiple Big Ten programs.
“So thankful for all the people who have gotten me to this point; my parents, my coaches in high school, and my coaches at Hillsdale,” VanValkenburg in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Leaving Hillsdale is bittersweet but I have reached the end of the road here educationally and my goals are uncompromising. I will always cherish the experiences I had here and the friendships I have made. With that said, I’m very proud to announce that I will be continuing both my academic and football careers at the University of Iowa this fall! Go Hawkeyes!”
Playing at Hillsdale College, a private college in an eponymous Michigan town, the 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end collected 70 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018.
He will be expected to add depth along Iowa’s defensive line after losing all four starters from last year’s team.
VanValkenburg will have two seasons to compete for the Hawkeyes.