The Michigan State Spartans and new head coach Mel Tucker have reportedly found their new offensive coordinator in Colorado’s Jay Johnson.
Michigan State University is yet to officially announce the hiring, although The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman is reporting that Johnson will take over OC duties. He is expected to be quarterbacks coach as well.
First reported by the Brian Howell of Buffzone.com, this is not a total surprise, as Tucker was expected to bring over several of his coaches from the Colorado staff.
Before serving as CU’s offensive coordinator in 2018, Johnson was with Tucker at Georgia in 2017 and 2018. He is entering his 25th year of coaching and has also spent time with Minnesota in 2016, University of Louisiana (formerly UL-Lafayette ) from 2011-2015, Central Michigan (2010), Louisville (2008-2009), Southern Mississippi (2003-2007), Kansas (1997-2001) and Missouri (1994), among other stops.
Johnson has held the offensive coordinator post for 10 total seasons with four FBS schools (Southern Miss, Louisiana, Minnesota and Colorado). He also was OC at Division III Augsburg College (Minneapolis, Minnesota) in 1994 and Division II Truman State (Kirksville, Missouri) in 1995-1996. Additionally, Johnson has served as quarterbacks coach, running backs coach, tight ends coach and quality control coach throughout his college career.
As far as 2019 goes, it was a mixed bag, but it is also important to remember that Tucker, Johnson and the rest of the staff took over a program that didn’t have many (or possibly any) of their preferred recruits. Colorado was a decent team running the ball, averaging 150.3 yards per game, which ranked the Buffaloes fifth in the Pac-12 conference and was substantially better than MSU’s abysmal 127.2 rushing yards per contest. The passing game, however, was lackluster, as Colorado was ninth in the conference at just 238.2 yards per game. Michigan State ranked six spots ahead of Colorado in the national passing yards per game category at 244.8. Colorado averaged 388.5 total yards per game (ninth in Pac-12, 83rd nationally) and only 23.5 points per game (ninth in Pac-12, 100th nationally) — only 1.1 more points per game than MSU (yikes).
Johnson describes his offensive scheme as “very multiple.” My understanding is that Johnson uses a lot of three-receiver sets out of the pistol or shotgun, but isn’t afraid to run the football at any point either (granted, I haven’t seen much of the offense in action as this point). He is going to need to tweak his system to fit MSU’s personnel, of course, but this is what Johnson had to say about his offense to the Denver Post in late March of 2019:
“We’ll be a little bit of pro, a little bit of spread, a little bit of air raid,” he said. “We’re going to try to be very, very multiple in all that we do with different elements of each.”
Johnson played quarterback for Northern Iowa in the early ‘90s. He led the Panthers to a 31-8 record, three conference titles and three Division 1-AA playoff appearances on his way to multiple All-Gateway Conference honors (now the Missouri Valley Conference Football in the FCS).
MSU also officially announced the hiring of another Colorado staff member in offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic. If reports about Johnson are true, that brings Tucker’s staff up to four assistants as of press time, as Johnson and Kapilovic join Mike Tressel and Ron Burton, who are of course disciples of the Mark Dantonio tenure.
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