Three weeks after Texas Longhorns running backs coach Tommie Robinson departed to return to the USC Trojans, the Longhorns have finally scheduled an interview with a potential candidate on Tuesday, as Horns247 reported on Monday that head coach Charlie Strong will meet with Toledo Rockets co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Anthony Johnson for the open position vacated by Robinson.
The Statesman later confirmed the news.
The long period of time between Robinson's departure and any breaking news in the search to find his replacement was all part of the plan for Strong.
"Well, I haven't addressed it, but just because I'm trying to get through recruiting. And now that recruiting is over, I'm probably going to give these guys a couple of days off, and then we're going to sit down as a staff and go to work and get everybody in place," Strong said on National Signing Day. "We need to get that done so we can move forward."
Having taken that short break, it appears that Strong has a top target for the position in mind, if not the top target.
Johnson is a former Longhorns running back who played for the school from 2001-2004. In 2003, he carried the ball 19 times for 93 yards. After his playing career in burnt orange was over, Johnson returned to his home town of Jefferson to coach the running backs there before heading back to Austin, serving three seasons as a quality control assistant under his former head coach Mack Brown. From 2007 to 2009, Johnson worked as a "direct assistant to the running backs coach, helping with analyzing video and breaking down opposing defense reports," according to his Toledo bio.
Having successfully launched his career at the college ranks, Johnson accepted a job as the running backs coach at Sam Houston State, where he worked with strong teams there from 2009 to 2013. Under Johnson's guidance, Bearkats running back Timothy Flanders twice earned Southland Conference Player of the Year honors.
The success continued at Toledo, as sophomore Kareem Hunt had an All-Conference season under Johnson in 2014, rushing for over 1,600 yards in 10 games.
Of course, with the impressive stable of running backs already on campus or, in the case of 2016 US Army All-American Kyle Porter, headed to campus in June, Johnson's biggest value would come as a recruiter, so the hope would be that his Texas ties could further help the Longhorns in East Texas and across the state. Given Johnson's success as a coach and the fact that he recruited in the state so recently, if Strong thinks that he's the best guy for the job, he deserves the benefit of the doubt in this case.