Longtime Iowa Hawkeye recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson announced on Saturday that he is leaving the Hawkeye program to open a restaurant in Tennessee.
Johnson was an original member from current head coach Kirk Ferentz’s first coaching staff where he began as a graduate assistant in 1999. He became the recruiting coordinator in 2003 and also worked with a number of different positions throughout the years such as tight ends, linebackers and most recently, defensive line as an assistant coach.
Johnson declared on twitter last Saturday that he was leaving to open a Culver’s in Tennessee. He also released a statement saying, “My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football. Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way.”
Johnson has been a tremendous recruiter for Iowa in his time as recruiting coordinator. He won the CBS Sports’ Lemmy Award for being one of the Top 3 recruiters in the country in 2008 and 2010. He also led Iowa to a top 5 recruiting class in 2005 and top 25 classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2009. Those classes were not just hype as 8 of his recruits were 4 year starters, 7 were All-Big Ten players and 2 were All-Americans.
Now what Iowa does to replace him is where some speculation comes into play. They can hire from within as both current assistants Chris White and Bobby Kennedy have been recruiting coordinators before- White at Syracuse and Kennedy at Texas.
White had a strong 2014 recruiting season as he was the lead recruiter for 8 of Iowa’s 19 commitments according to rivals.com. Because of his track record, he may be moved from running backs and special teams coach to recruiting coordinator.
Ferentz may also be able to persuade someone out of the program to come to Iowa to fill their hole in the staff. In the past couple of seasons it has seemed like Ferentz is trying to hire younger staff members demonstrated by hiring his son Brian Ferentz, 31, and Levar Woods, 36. Johnson himself was only 41 years old.
Recruiting coordinators are usually one of the younger coaches on the staffs as they are able to connect to the high school and junior college recruits. Because of this, 6 out of the Sporting News’ top 10 recruiting coordinators were 40 years old or younger. Ferentz may choose to find a new up and coming coach to replace Johnson.
Even though he was known primarily as a recruiter, Johnson was also a phenomenal coach. When he was also a tight end coach, every senior starting tight end he worked with was drafted into the NFL, highlighted by big names like Brandon Myers and Tony Moeaki.
Some of those former players that he recruited are disappointed that he left.
“Damn Coach Johnson leaving Iowa?? He was one of the main reasons I committed to Iowa #greatguy,” former player Adrian Clayborn tweeted.
Culver’s originated in Wisconsin in 1984 and most of their restaurants are primarily in Big Ten territory. It has been compared on twitter as symbol of Big Ten much like Chick-fil-A is to the SEC. For those people who might stop by at Johnson’s new Culver’s in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Johnson tweeted that it opens on Nov 1st and that there will indeed play Hawkeye games on TV.