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Who is Denver Johnson? Supposedly The New Buffs Offensive Line Coach, That's Who

All signs point to former Illinois State head coach, Denver Johnson, being named the new offensive line coach according to Bloomington Well, I have to say that this looks like a pretty decent move for the Colorado Buffaloes. No, Denver Johnson is not the founder of the Mile High Club. Johnson has been a head coach at two schools and has had assistant coaching jobs at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. Johnson, a former offensive lineman who played at Tulsa and had a brief stint in the NFL with Tampa Bay in 1981 - 1983, recently resigned from the head coaching position at Illinois State after nine years in the position. More on his coaching resume below.

According to, Johnson resigned from the Illinois State job after a season ending loss that ended the "2008 season with a 3-8 record overall, after finishing 4-7 in 2007. It was ISU’s first back-to-back losing seasons in over a decade."

"During his nine-year run at Illinois State, Johnson posted a 48-54 record with the Redbirds, highlighted by the 2006 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Playoff run and a season-ending No. 8 national ranking. Johnson’s teams produced some of the most prolific offensive campaigns in the program's history by establishing 28 offensive school records, including the most points and the most rushing, passing and total yards in a season."

He also seems to be a good recruiter:

As a result, the Redbirds landed three, three-star recruits, as rated by national recruiting services, and the class as a whole ranked No. 2 nationally among all NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs.

TRR's take: So it looks like he has a good track record for strong offensive production. Johnson will inherit one of the more promising units at Colorado in a long time in the offensive line. Still, Denver Johnson will have plenty of opportunity to put his stamp on this group as the pieces still need to be molded and grown. Johnson will first have to keep the growth and development of a promising line going in the right direction. Next, their are plenty of battles and questions that still need to be answered even with all the potential. First, who will take over duties as the rock of the offensive line in center. The good thing for Johnson is that he has a ton of talent to choose from. The bad thing is Johnson will have to find a guy with hardly any experience to play the position. At the other positions, he will have to hope OT Ryan Miller and OG Max Tuioti-Mariner heal and continue to develop. Miller and MTM have the ability to be All Big 12 players for the rest of their careers but both are still young. He will also have to be instrumental in continuing to develop a still very raw OT Nate Solder at tackle who still should be considered a project in one of the most important positions on the football field. The final task will be to get Bryce Givens ready to go and correctly shuffle through the log jam at the guard/tackle spots that consists of guys like Mike Iltis, Blake Behrens, Devin Head, Matt Bahr and Sione Tau among others, to put the best players out on the field. Johnson may have acquired one of the more promising unites on the team but there is still plenty of work to be done. The assistance of offensive technician Brad Bedell would be very helpful to keep continuity, something that is very important at the offensive line position with play calls, etc.

More on Denver Johnson from Illinois State's athletic site:

Johnson's players have gone on to receive 34 All-America honors in his tenure at Illinois State.

Following a disappointing 4-7 campaign in 2007, Johnson and his staff hit the recruiting trail with determination. As a result, the Redbirds landed three, three-star recruits, as rated by national recruiting services, and the class as a whole ranked No. 2 nationally among all NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs.

In 2006, the Redbirds posted the second-highest win total in school history with nine victories, finished the season ranked No. 8 in the final polls and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA FCS Playoffs.

From 2007 - 2005, the Redbird passing offense was the best in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Throughout his entire career, the offense at Illinois State was a leader in the MVC.

Illinois State originally plucked Johnson from Murray State after the 1999 season, where he was 7-4 in each of his three campaigns as the Racers' head coach. After four years playing professional football, Johnson began his coaching career in 1985 as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State and was with the Cowboys for the 1985 Gator Bowl.

His first full-time coaching job came at Tennessee-Martin, where he was assistant head coach and coached the offensive line from 1986-89. In 1988, UT-Martin, with an explosive offense, fashioned a record of 11-2 with a quarterfinal appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Johnson coached the offensive line at Oklahoma State from 1989-93 before embarking on a three-year stint as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. The 1993 Bulldogs earned a spot in the Peach Bowl, and in 1995, Johnson was recognized as one of the top assistant coaches in the Southeastern Conference.

Johnson was on the Oklahoma staff for the 1996 season before taking over the Murray State program prior to the 1997 campaign.

A late hiring process and the loss of several key players from the previous year's team appeared to have Johnson poised for a slow start at Murray State, but that was not the case. The Racers responded with a 7-4 mark.

Johnson graduated from Tulsa in 1981. He helped TU to the 1976 Independence Bowl as a player and was a two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference offensive lineman under former Ohio State and Arizona State head coach John Cooper. He was also an academic all-conference pick.

Following his college playing career at Tulsa, Johnson moved to the professional ranks. He was with the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers from April 1981 to February 1983.

He then joined the Los Angeles Express of the now-defunct United States Football League from February 1983 through August 1984. Johnson then wrapped up his playing career with the USFL's Houston Gamblers from February 1984 through August 1985. His USFL playing days included playing stints with quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Steve Young, both of whom went on to stardom in the National Football League.

Known for his homespun humor and southern drawl, Johnson is a public speaker in high demand. His interesting delivery style, combined with a keen mind, plays well in the corporate setting, at fund-raisers, in a recruit's home and in the Redbird locker room.

Year-By-Year Head Coaching Results

2007 - Illinois State 4-7/2-4
2006 - Illinois State 9-4/5-2
2005 - Illinois State 7-4/4-3
2004 - Illinois State 4-7/2-5
2003 - Illinois State 6-6/3-4
2002 - Illinois State 6-5/4-3
2001 - Illinois State 2-9/2-5
2000 - Illinois State 7-4/4-2
1999 - Murray State 7-4/5-2
1998 - Murray State 7-4/5-2
1997 - Murray State 7-4/5-2
CAREER TOTAL (11 YEARS) 66-58/41-34

Coaching Ledger

2000- Illinois State, Head Coach
1997-99 Murray State, Head Coach
1996 Oklahoma, Assistant Coach
1993-95 Mississippi State, Assistant Coach
1989-93 Oklahoma State, Assistant Coach
1986-89 Tennessee-Martin, Assistant Head Coach
1985-86 Oklahoma State, Graduate Assistant

Illinois State University Football