Colorado's Hawkins Finally Gets His Man

Ron KnabenbauerCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2009

Dan Hawkins finally got his guy.


After a month long search, the CU Athletic department officially announced on Wednesday that Denver Johnson has been named the new offensive line coach for the football team for the 2009 season.


“He’s very highly respected, and is a great man and a great coach,” said head coach Dan Hawkins in a press release on Wednesday. “He has experience coaching with and against Big 12 competition and has recruiting ties in the Big 12 region, especially Texas. I think he’s a great fit for our staff and for our team.”


The hiring of Johnson comes after former offensive line coach Jeff Grimes left for Auburn last month, to join former Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik’s new squad in a similar position.


In the press release on Wednesday, Johnson said he is excited to be at Colorado and coach with Hawkins.


“I am thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to come to Colorado and join coach Hawkins and his staff along with these young men,” Johnson said. “I have been a head coach for 12 years, but I’m an offensive line coach by trade. That’s my passion, so I am excited to be here at such a critical time and am looking forward to settling in and getting down to business.”


Johnson, 50, started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State in 1985 after a five year stint in the NFL and the now defunct United States Football League. After one year in Stillwater, he left for Tennessee-Martin where he became assistant head coach and the offensive line coach for three seasons.


The Seminole, Okla. native returned to the OSU Cowboys in 1989 where he became the offensive line coach until he left for Mississippi State in 1993.


He returned to Big 12 country in 1996 for one season with Oklahoma before he took the head coaching job at division I-AA Murray State in 1997.


Johnson’s most recent coaching experience came as the Illinois State head coach where he had been for the last nine seasons before he resigned after the 2008 campaign.


In his nine years in Normal, Ill. his team went 48-54, however in 2008 his Redbirds finished a disappointing 3-8.


However, Johnson’s greatest achievement as coach came in 2006 as he led ISU to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly I-AA) quarterfinals and finished the season ranked eighth in the FCS.


Johnson will be coaching 15 returning players on an offensive line that was hurt badly last season by injuries. Of those 15, only six have starting experience, and only one is a senior in guard Devin Head.


Johnson said he is looking forward to working with the young athletes who are still developing as players.


“They are very much still in the development stage,” Johnson said. “They are a young, talented bunch with some length and athletic ability. It is a unique opportunity to take over a bunch that is so young.”


The Football team begins spring practice on March 31.