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Arkansas Football: Why Bret Bielema Kept Taver Johnson

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - APRIL 21:   Interim Head Coach Taver Johnson of the Arkansas Razorbacks talks to his players on the field during the Spring Game at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium on April 21, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Jacob B.Contributor IIIJanuary 4, 2013

Bret Bielema has decided to keep Taver Johnson, the linebackers coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2012, on staff.

The decision to keep Johnson on staff was announced Wednesday, along with the revelation that Johnson will be acting as the cornerbacks coach.

Bielema has been working to overhaul the entire staff since being given the head-coaching job at Arkansas in December. He has been working especially hard on revamping the defense, an aspect of the Hogs’ game that was lacking last season.

Bielema has demonstrated his desire for change by bringing in some of his coaches from Wisconsin, including defensive-line coach Charlie Partridge and defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

But why, after the Hogs’ lackluster defense last season, would he keep a key member of the defensive coaching staff that bears at least partial responsibility for the Hogs’ performance?

Bielema cites “stability” in the news story on the team’s official website.

Stability is a luxury that players at Arkansas have been deprived of since Petrino’s firing last spring. Anything resembling stability for these players would be a good thing.

Johnson also had some standout players under his tutelage during the season. Johnson was the coach that got freshmen A.J. Turner and Otha Peters filling in for an injured Alonzo Highsmith and a benched Terrell Williams.

Obviously Hog fans would have preferred to see the regular starters on the field, but given the circumstances, both freshmen performed very well, and coach Johnson should get a lot of credit for such a virtually seamless transition from veteran seniors to freshmen.

Johnson’s performance as a coach was a bright spot among the many failures of the Arkansas coaching staff this season. He took a situation that went from bad to worse and coached young players to a level that allowed them to perform competently on the field.

That alone is enough for Johnson to earn the privilege of staying on at Arkansas, despite the overall failures of this year’s defense. 

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