David Johnson was named Florida State’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator on Jan. 5, 2020.
He has coached 16 all-conference performers who have combined to earn 25 all-conference recognitions, including four Special Teams Player of the Year honors. Johnson has produced an NFL Draft pick in each of the last four years.
In his first year at Florida State, Johnson coached a completely new group as Florida State’s running back room featured zero returning scholarship players from the previous season. He utilized the group’s youth and versatility to account for 1,855 all-purpose yards, led by Jashaun Corbin and Lawrance Toafili, and 13 touchdowns, including Ja’Khi Douglas’ two receiving scores. Against Duke, Corbin rushed for a career-high three touchdowns, one shy of the school record, and Toafili posted a career-best 117 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, on only seven carries. Toafili was one of only 12 rushers in the ACC with a 70-yard run in 2020.
Florida State averaged 199.9 rushing yards per game, the program’s highest since 2016 and 20th nationally among teams that played at least nine games in 2020, and 5.11 yards per rush, 16th in the nation among teams with at least 350 carries and FSU’s most in a season since 2015. In the season finale, a 56-35 win over Duke, Florida State rushed for six touchdowns, the most in the ACC and tied for the seventh-highest single-game total nationally in 2020. That also was only the second time in FSU history the Seminoles rushed for six touchdowns in a conference game, and the 346 rushing yards against Duke were the most by a Florida State team since 2012.
Johnson spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons at Tennessee after coaching on Mike Norvell’s Memphis staff in 2016 and 2017. Johnson also brought Division I experience from Tulane and before that spent 12 years as a high school coach in New Orleans around a four-year stint at Millsaps College.
Tennessee improved from four wins the season before Johnson arrived to eight wins and a Gator Bowl victory in 2019. He coached the Vols’ wide receivers in 2018 before moving to running backs in 2019, leading a group that produced five 100-yard rushing games.
Eric Gray broke UT’s single-game true freshman rushing record with 246 yards against Vanderbilt, a total that ranked fifth on the Vols’ all-time list. Nationally, it was the ninth-highest single-game total, and highest by a true freshman, in 2019. Gray was named Gator Bowl MVP after recovering an onside kick and scoring the game-winning touchdown 30 seconds later. The 2018 team ranked sixth in the SEC with an average of 7.9 yards per catch and had four different receivers average more than 14.0 yards per reception, led by Josh Palmer’s 21.04 average.
In his two seasons at Memphis, Johnson was the Tigers’ wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. He developed former walk-on Anthony Miller to consensus All-America honors in 2017 after Miller led the NCAA with 18 receiving touchdowns and ranked third in the country with 1,462 yards and fifth with 96 receptions. Miller was then selected 51st overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Memphis concluded the 2017 season ranked second in the country with an average of 45.5 points per game, fourth with 523.1 yards of total offense per game, sixth with a passing efficiency rating of 160.15 and seventh with an average of 335.0 passing yards per game.
The 2016 season was Miller’s breakout year as he re-wrote Memphis’ single-season records with 95 catches, 1,434 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those numbers would all improve in Johnson’s second season working with Miller. The 2016 Tigers ranked 14th in the country with 304.4 passing yards per game, and their 38.8 points-per-game average was 15th.
Johnson joined Memphis after four seasons as Tulane’s running backs and tight ends coach. In 2014, he coached a Freshman All-American at each position as running back Sherman Badie led the Green Wave with 688 rushing yards and tight end Charles Jones caught 21 passes for 192 yards and a team-high three touchdowns. The 2013 team advanced to the program’s first bowl since 2002 and Orleans Darkwa was named MVP of the New Orleans Bowl after rushing for three touchdowns. Those three scores pushed his season total to 12, tied for the third-highest single-season output in program history, and allowed him to tie former NFL running back Matt Forte for the Tulane record with 39 career rushing scores.
From 2005-08, Johnson coached wide receivers, tight ends and special teams while also serving as the recruiting coordinator at Millsaps College. While there he helped lead the Majors to three consecutive SCAC championships and set the program up for a fourth straight in 2009.
Johnson was the head coach at St. Augustine High School from 2009-11. He led the Purple Knights to district titles in 2010 and 2011, earning the district’s Coach of the Year honor in 2011. In his first season he developed defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who earned consensus All-America honors and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a Heisman finalist in 2011 at LSU. He also coached two-time USA Today High School All-American running back Leonard Fournette at St. Augustine, laying the foundation for a consensus All-America performance in 2015 and two All-SEC selections while at LSU before being drafted fourth overall in 2017 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Johnson served as offensive coordinator at John F. Kennedy High School and O. Perry Walker High School. He helped direct O. Perry Walker to three straight district championships and the 2002 state championship game while coaching All-American Craig Davis, a first-round selection by the Chargers in 2007 after winning a national championship at LSU, and Mike Wallace, who was taken in the third round in 2009 out of Ole Miss.
A two-time all-conference player at Nicholls State, Johnson led the Colonels in receiving in 1992 and 1993. He totaled 50 receptions for 990 yards and eight touchdowns in those two seasons and also served as a punt returner for Nicholls.
Johnson graduated from Nicholls State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in general education. He and his wife, Akeia, have three children, Jermaine, De’Von and Karaaz.
|2020-||Florida State||Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator|
|2016-17||Memphis||Wide Receivers/Passing Game Coordinator|
|2012-15||Tulane||Running Backs/Tight Ends|
|2009-11||St. Augustine High School (La.)||Head Coach|
|2005-08||Millsaps College||Wide Receivers/Tight Ends/Special Teams/Recruiting Coordinator|
|2000-04||O. Perry Walker High School (La.)||Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers/Tight Ends|
|1997-99||John F. Kennedy High School (La.)||Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers/Tight Ends|