The last time Temple fans saw Taver Johnson in action as a defensive coordinator, the Owls’ program was in the gutter and in desperate need of intervention.
Probably none of them remember him.
Then, Johnson was the DC at Miami (Ohio) and there was an announced crowd of 11,257 (“missing about 9,000 no-shows” according to an AP story on the game) in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field but, in reality, you could count the crowd in about 20 minutes and probably come up with one third of that number. Outside, before the game, there were five fans tailgating in the rain in Lot K waiting for the game to begin right up to a half-hour before kickoff.
Five, as in the number that comes after four and before six, and the day will go down in Temple football infamy, Oct. 29, 2005. The entire lot was empty except for those five fans.
In all fairness, in those days there was a larger group of Temple tailgaters a couple of lots over at the Jethro Lot but those five in two cars were all that showed in Lot K that rainy day.
The gloomy rain was a fitting backdrop for a program that hit rock bottom with only two directions apparent: Up or out. The talk of tailgate that day was speculating on the miracle man who could save the program because then coach Bobby Wallace had already announced he was not coming back at the end of the year, nudged out by the administration. Rick Neuheisel’s name came up, as did Frank Solich’s. Al Golden was an unknown at the time to any of the five Temple fans left.
I know. I was one of them. The other four shall remain nameless, but they have all witnessed a rebirth in the program and the tailgate atmosphere that is truly remarkable. The Owls were able to start crawling out of the gutter a couple of months later when a Virginia assistant coach named Al Golden, also a DC, was named head coach.
Johnson’s defense was impressive in a 41-14 win over the Owls, but so was every other defense that played against the Owls that year. That was the ninth loss in an 0-11 season on the way to 20-straight losses.
Now Johnson is back and will roam the sidelines in the same capacity this year as DC of the Owls. Ironically, same sideline, too, because the “home” side for Temple was the other side of the Linc in those days.
It seems like a good hire for new head coach Geoff Collins. In that year of 2005, Johnson presided over a Miami defense that spearheaded a 7-4 record. In addition to “holding” Temple to two touchdowns, his defense limited Cincinnati to 16 points, Buffalo to 13 and Ohio to 10.
That was Johnson’s only experience as a FBS defensive coordinator. His most recent experience was Purdue defensive backs’ coach the last two years and that was the same Purdue team that gave up 63 points to Penn State. Still, he brings a mostly P5 coaching set to Temple and that has to be a plus because he will go on the recruiting trail looking for a P5 skill set. He was at Arkansas (linebackers and cornerbacks) in 2012 and 2013 and coached the cornerbacks at Ohio State from 2007-2012.
He even served as interim head coach of the Razorbacks.
When he finally roams the sidelines, he will see a whole other side of Temple, both on the field and in the stands, that he saw the first time and the impression should be a favorable one. We can only hope those fans have a favorable impression of the work Johnson does in their view, but we won’t know for sure until about midway through the 2017 season.
Friday: God and The Power 5