Tuimoloau verbal reinforces Larry Johnson’s reputation as recruiter


The signing of five-star Washington defensive end JT Tuimoloau to Ohio State on Sunday once again shows why associate head and defensive line coach Larry Johnson is worth his weight in gold.

Johnson, 68, is entering his eighth year as an Ohio State Assistant. Former head coach Urban Meyer chose Johnson, a longtime assistant to rival Penn State, to replace Mike Vrabel in January 2014 after Vrabel left to work in the NFL.

Johnson had built a reputation at Penn State under head coach Joe Paterno as a powerful talent developer. But when he was ignored as Paterno’s successor, nothing held Johnson back at State College. Over the course of seven years, he was instrumental in the success of OSU as the Buckeyes won five Big Ten Championships, the 2014 National Championship, and made the college football playoffs four times. When head coach Ryan Day was sidelined with Covid-19 last season, it was Johnson who stepped in as interim head coach for OSU’s victory in Michigan State.

He solidified his reputation as a strong recruiter, spiritual leader and developer of defensive talent. Starting in 2014, Johnson helped Ohio State land up to 13 top national defensive linemen. This group includes:

* Jalyn Holmes of Virginia, ranked 76th overall in the 2014 class;

* Jashon Cornell of Minnesota, ranked 95th overall in the 2015 class;

* Nick Bosa of Florida, ranked eighth overall in 2016;

* Jonathon Cooper of Ohio, ranked 33rd in the 2016 class;

* Chase Young of Maryland, ranked seventh in the 2017 class;

* Haskell Garrett of Nevada, ranked 68th in 2017;

* Taron Vincent from Florida, ranked 20th in class 2018;

* Tyreke Smith of Ohio, ranked 34th in the 2018 class;

* Tommy Togiai of Idaho, ranked 55th in class 2018;

* Tyler Friday of New Jersey, ranked 93rd in class of 2018;

* Zach Harrison of Ohio, ranked 12th in the 2019 class;

* Jack Sawyer of Ohio, ranked fourth in the 2021 class; and now

* JT Tuimoloau of Washington, ranked third in 2021.

Steve Wiltfong is Director of Recruiting for He covered football recruiting in the Midwest for almost 15 years. He shared what he sees from Johnson and how he has excelled as a recruiter.

“He’s obviously one of the best defensive line coaches of all time,” said Wiltfong. “The prospects for respect for Coach Wilson are enormous and his message resonates a little differently with the rookies throughout the process.”

Bill Kurelic of has followed Ohio State football recruiting for over 30 years. He’s seen his fair share of exceptional recruiters come and go, including Bill Conley, Jim Heacock, Darrell Hazell, Tim Spencer, Luke Fickell, Mel Tucker, Kerry Coombs, Brian Hartline and others. But he said Johnson has earned his place among the best to ever portray Scarlet and Gray.

“Larry Johnson has long been known as a great recruiter,” said Kurelic. “His time at Ohio State also saw him become a college football defensive line coaching guru. With his reputation for being the best in business coaching, his pedigree when it comes to developing his top-tier NFL Draft picks, his ability to connect with rookies and his personality. contagious, you have a combination that makes it easy to see why he is at the top of his profession.

Johnson’s Achievement Review

Of course, in addition to the guys he recruited, Johnson also inherited a strong group of defensive linemen when he arrived at Ohio State. This group included defensive ends like Joey Bosa, Steve Miller and Tyquan Lewis and defensive tackles Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett.

In 2019, he coached and developed Chase Young to a Heisman Trophy finalist – just the ninth defensive player ever to be named a finalist – and unanimous first-team All-America status while also being named a finalist for five other major national awards. Young won both the Bednarik Prize and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both awarded to the country’s top defensive player.

Young also won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s outstanding defensive end in 2019 and he won three Big Ten Conference awards: the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the best Big Ten player and the defensive player and player. Big Ten Defensive Line of the Year.

Johnson has coached more Big Ten Defensive Players of the Year or Linemen of the Year – 16! – than any program in the Big Ten over the past 25 years. Having coached nine of these winners in his 18 seasons at Penn State, Johnson saw Joey Bosa win both Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year honors (2014 and 2015) and the Player’s Award. league defensive player of the year in 2014, Tyquan Lewis was named Ten’s Big Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2016 and Nick Bosa gave Johnson and the Buckeye program four back-to-back winners when he won honor in 2017. Young added to the total in 2019.

Young was also the seventh Ohio State defensive lineman to win All-America first-team honors under Johnson. The others: Dre’mont Jones (2018), Nick Bosa (2017), Joey Bosa (2014 and 2015), Adolphus Washington (2015) and Michael Bennett (2014). Johnson has coached a total of 13 first-team All-Americans at Ohio State and Penn State.

Johnson has coached eight first-round picks in the NFL Draft, including the Bosa brothers (Joey in 2016; Nick in 2019). He transferred five of his players to the NFL in one season, following the 2017 campaign, including draft picks Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes. In addition, four of his players, including Sam Hubbard, were named to the Academic All-American first team.

Mentorship is a critical part of Johnson’s success and the student-athletes he coaches.

“I’m a relationship man and I think in order to get the most out of your players you have to develop relationships,” Johnson said previously. “I am also a teacher. I love to teach the basics of football. I want guys who are basically healthy and have the ability to play fast and play relentlessly. “

Johnson grew up in Williamston, North Carolina, and graduated in 1973 from Elizabeth City State University (NC) with a degree in health and physical education. He came to Ohio State after coaching along the defensive line for 18 years at Penn State, including the past 14 seasons (2000-13) overseeing the entire unit. He spent his first four seasons at Penn State – 1996-99 – as a defensive end coach and special team coordinator.

While Ohio State is Johnson’s second college training stop, his career also includes 20 years of high school training in Maryland and Virginia.

Johnson arrived in Ohio State with a resume filled with accomplishments at Penn State:

Six of his defensive linemen were NFL first-round picks, including No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown in 2000 and also starring Jimmy Kennedy (2002), Michael Haynes (2003), Tamba Hali ( 2006), Jared Odrick (2010) and Aaron Mabin (2009).

Seven of his defensive linemen earned first-team All-American status (the six listed above and Devon Still). PSU defensive linemen have won 22 academic accolades from the All-Big Ten conference. Three of his positional players have achieved Academic All-American status (Tim Shaw in 2006 and Pete Massaro in 2010 and 2012). Fifteen Nittany Lion defensive linemen have been named to the Big Ten conference first team.

Additionally, he coached a Penn State defense that led the nation in the sacks between 2005-2009 and was nationally No.5 in ground defense from 2004-10. And between 1996-2013, the defense of Penn State has been the Big Ten Conference statistical champion 14 times, including four times in quarterback sacks and three times in goal defense.

Johnson spent the first 20 years of his career as a very successful high school coach. Six times selected as Metro Washington Coach of the Year, he guided McDonough High School in Pomfret, Md., To three Maryland State Championships and a record 139-36 between 1975-91 , and he also coached two seasons (1992-93) at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He began his coaching career in 1974 at Lackey High School in LaPlata, Maryland.

As a player, Johnson was an NAIA All-American artist and all lecturing at Elizabeth City State University. He was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He played a year in the NFL, with the Washington Redskins in 1973.

Johnson and his wife, Christine, are the parents of two sons – Larry Jr. and Tony – and a daughter, Teresa. Larry Jr. and Tony both played football at Penn State with Larry Jr. rushing for a school record 2,087 yards in 2002 and later becoming a Kansas City Chiefs first-round pick and two-time selection. at the Pro Bowl. Teresa played softball for the Nittany Lions.

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