Jay Johnson, the associate head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach at Louisiana-Lafayette for the past five seasons, has been hired by Tracy Claeys to serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Johnson replaces Matt Limegrover and Jim Zebrowski, the Gophers' previous offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively.
Johnson has more than two decades of college coaching experience.
The Ragin' Cajuns' S&P+ rankings over the past five years on offense under Johnson are sort of a mixed bag, to be honest. Judge for yourself:
|Scoring Offense||30th -- 31.8||24th -- 35.1||45th -- 30.8||64th -- 28.2||84th -- 24.8|
|Total Offense||40th -- 404.2||23rd -- 464||69th -- 399.8||57th -- 409.5||89th -- 365.3|
|Pass Offense||23rd -- 280.4||38th -- 266.3||79th -- 216.2||102nd -- 185.4||76th -- 210.5|
|Rush Offense||89th -- 123.8||30th -- 197.7||43rd -- 183.6||24th -- 224.1||83rd -- 154.8|
Up until 2015, the Ragin' Cajuns had increased their team rushing total from year-to-year for four consecutive seasons (averaging 225 rushing yards per game in 2014), capped by back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing performances from running back Elijah McGuire in 2014 and 2015. Quarterback Terrance Broadway was a three-year starter under Johnson from 2012-14, averaging 2,520 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions per season over those three years. Broadway's completion percentage on the year also never dipped below 62.4% in each of his three seasons under center. Broadway was also a key cog in the Ragin' Cajuns' running game, amassing 1,852 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns over his three seasons as starting quarterback.
As for what style of offense the Ragin' Cajuns have run under Johnson's tenure, I'll defer to 247Sports' Will Henry and our very own Matt Humbert.
Intrigued by the Jay Johnson hire. Run O will be fun. Power out of the pistol with tons of misdirection and options. Good O for Croft/Green.— Will Henry (@WillHenry247) December 29, 2015
Will be interesting to see if Jay finds a way to incorporate a full-back into his scheme.— Will Henry (@WillHenry247) December 29, 2015
Real excited for his pass O. Derived from West Coast Offense tendencies, there are a lot of Hi/Lo concepts that lend to more YAC potential.— Will Henry (@WillHenry247) December 29, 2015
There will be more opportunity for isolated vertical options because of the misdirection and Hi/Lo concepts.— Will Henry (@WillHenry247) December 29, 2015
Jay has had a lot of success with "F" style tight ends in the past. Developed Shawn Nelson at USM and Ladarius Green at ULL.— Will Henry (@WillHenry247) December 29, 2015
Jay Johnson at Lafayette ran a run first spread with huge focus on QB-run game, misdirections, and zone. Sounds like heaven.— CLAEYSTRON-6 (@MVofDT) December 29, 2015
Obviously, all we can do is speculate at this point what type of offense Claeys intends to run with Johnson calling the plays. Claeys has said in the past month that he liked 75 to 80 percent of the Gophers' offensive schemes under Limegrover. It remains to be seen what specific aspects of the offense will remain intact under Claeys. We'll get a glimpse in the spring as Johnson begins to install his offense.
Here is a look at Johnson's complete career path up to this point:
1993 - Columbia-Hickman HS (Assistant Coach)
1994 - Missouri (Graduate Assistant)
1995 - Augsberg College (Offensive Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator)
1995-96 - Truman State (Offensive Coordinator)
1997-99 - Kansas (Graduate Assistant)
1999-01 - Kansas (Quarterbacks)
2001-03 - Kansas (Running Backs)
2003 - Southern Miss (Tight Ends)
2004 - Southern Miss (Running Backs)
2005-07 - Southern Miss (Offensive Coordinator)
2008 - Louisville (Administrative Assistant)
2009 - Louisville (Tight Ends)
2010 - Central Michigan (Quarterbacks)
2011 - 2015 - Louisiana-Lafayette (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Johnson is also a Minnesota native, hailing from Lakeville. He played quarterback at Northern Iowa from 1989-92 after graduating from Lakeville North.
The Gophers return a lot of key players on offense next year. Mitch Leidner will be under center again after passing for 2,700 yards and 14 touchdowns. The dynamic running back tandem of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith returns after rushing for a combined 1,379 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns in 2015. The Gophers also bring back 4 of their 5 top receivers from this season. Much will depend on the maturation of the offensive line, but Johnson will have plenty to work with in his first season at Minnesota.
Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about this hire yet. I like the style of offense that Johnson ran at Louisiana-Lafayette, but the analytics aren't all that impressive. We'll find out what he and Claeys have in store for the Gopher offense come spring. In the meantime, welcome to Minnesota, Jay Johnson! Glad to have you.