|Other Position:||Safeties Coach|
Allen Johnson is beginning his fifth season as Arkansas State's safeties and nickelbacks coach and his first as the team’s pass game coordinator.
Johnson possesses over 19 years coaching experience at both the collegiate and high school levels. His first season at Arkansas State saw the Red Wolves post a 7-6 record and make an unprecedented fourth consecutive appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl.
The Red Wolves followed that up with a Sun Belt Conference championship and appearance in the New Orleans Bowl in 2015. A-State made it back-to-back league titles in 2016 and ended the season by knocking off UCF 31-13 in the Cure Bowl. A-State made its fourth consecutive bowl-game appearance – the Camellia Bowl – with Johnson on the coaching staff in 2017.
The most recent season saw Johnson mentor two players who earned all-conference recognition, including Nickelback Justin Clifton as a second-team selection and safety B.J. Edmonds as an honorable mention choice. The two players were part of the Red Wolves’ secondary that helped the team rank No. 9 in the nation in 4th down conversion percentage defense (.364), No. 21 in 3rd down conversion percentage defense (.330), No. 21 in defensive touchdowns (3), No. 27 in fumbles recovered (10), No. 29 in turnovers gained (24), No. 32 in passes intercepted (14), No. 32 in 1st downs defense (233) and No. 40 in team passing efficiency defense (120.59).
Just a sophomore in 2017, Edmonds posted career best numbers and finished the season ranked second on the team in tackles with 80 and first on the squad in interceptions with three. Clifton was the squad’s third-leading tackler, but the unit also featured nickelback and safety Darreon Jackson as the Red Wolves’ fourth-ranked tackles leader.
Johnson coached three players who earned all-conference recognition in 2016, including safety Money Hunter as a first-team selection and Clifton and safety Cody Brown as second-team choices. The three players helped A-State rank eighth in the nation in defensive touchdowns, 19th in scoring defense, 23rd in pass efficiency defense, 29th in total defense and 30th in 3rd down conversion defense.
In fact, Hunter ended his career as the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leader in interception returns for a touchdown with four. Brown tied for the team high in interceptions in 2016 with three, while Clifton ranked second on the squad in tackles with a career-high 87 to his credit.
The 2015 season saw the Red Wolves rank No. 1 in the nation in interceptions with 26, and Johnson’s safeties were responsible for 10 of those. Led by juniors Hunter and Brown with three interceptions each and three combined pick-six’s, the position group was also instrumental in A-State’s No. 1 national ranking in defensive touchdowns (8).
Following the season, Brown was named a Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection with 65 tackles to go along with his three interceptions and nine pass break-ups. Additionally, A-State ranked second in the nation with 34 turnovers gained, which tied its most ever as an FBS member.
A-State saw three different players start at the Nickelback position in 2015. Among the group was Honorable Mention All-SBC selection Khari Lain, who also played linebacker.
Johnson’s 2014 safeties were part of A-State’s defense that ranked No. 14 in the nation in defensive touchdowns (4), No. 15 in passes intercepted (16), No. 17 in team sacks (2.85 per game), No. 21 in turnovers gained (28), No. 27 in third down percentage defense (.359), No. 28 in fumbles recovered (12), No. 36 in fourth down percentage defense (.435) and team tackles for loss (6.6 per game), No. 42 in red zone defense (.795), No. 44 in passing yards allowed (216.0 ypg) and No. 45 in team passing efficiency defense (122.26).
Despite losing starting strong safety Chris Humes just two games into the season, two of A-State’s top five tacklers were safeties. Johnson coached sophomore Hunter, who stepped into the starting role and enjoyed the best season of his young career with 65 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two pass break-ups and two interceptions, including one returned 94 yards against Toledo that was the longest scoring play in GoDaddy Bowl history. Hunter also had a career-tying 11 tackles in the bowl game.
Under Johnson’s watch, senior safety Sterling Young ended his career as the team’s third leading tackler in 2014. Young accounted for 75 tackles, one forced fumble, three pass break-ups and two interceptions. Johnson also tutored All-SBC pick Andrew Tryon at the nickelback position in 2014.
The Red Wolves’ safeties compiled a combined 171 tackles for almost 20 percent of the team’s total. The group also combined for four interceptions, five pass break-ups and three forced fumbles.
Prior to arriving at A-State, Johnson spent three seasons at Lamar University as the assistant head coach from 2012-13 and the defensive coordinator in 2011, while also overseeing the secondary all three years.
Johnson was part of Lamar’s coaching staff charged with reviving a program that took the field in 2010 for the first time since 1989. Competing in the NCAA FCS as a Southland Conference (SLC) member, the Cardinals led the league in both pass defense and pass efficiency defense in 2012 and 2013 with Johnson serving as the secondary coach.
Not only did Lamar’s secondary function as one of the top units in the SLC, the group boasted several players that were recognized for their individual efforts under the direction of Johnson. Safety Chad Allen and cornerbacks Branden Thomas and Tyrus McGlothen were All-Southland Conference choices during their career. McGlothen earned first team recognition in 2013 when he posted 81 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack and a fumble recovery.
Prior to his time at Lamar, Johnson coached the cornerbacks at the University of Texas-El Paso for three seasons. While at UTEP, Johnson coached such star defensive backs as Cornelius Brown, Melvin Stephenson and Clarence Ward, all of whom played briefly in the National Football League. Johnson’s final season at UTEP (2010) saw the Miners make their first appearance in a postseason game since 2005, competing in the New Mexico Bowl.
Before going to UTEP, Johnson spent the 2007 season as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Midwestern State University, which fielded the top defense in the Lone Star Conference (LSC) that year. In going 8-3 that season, Midwestern State led the league in scoring defense (18.6 points-per-game average), total defense (294.2 yards-per-game average) and rushing defense (93.9 yards-per-game). The Mustangs also ranked third in the LSC in pass defense and pass defense efficiency.
In 2006, Johnson served as the quality control coach at Oklahoma State University, helping lead the Cowboys to seven wins and an Independence Bowl victory. He doubled as the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Blinn College in 2005, helping the team qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association playoffs.
Johnson started his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant coach at Texas A&M-Commerce in 1999 before being elevated to a full-time position as running backs coach in 2000. After his two-year stint on the Lions’ coaching staff, he spent the next four seasons in the high-school coaching ranks at Gaither HS (2001) in Tampa, Fla., at Plant HS (2002) in Tampa and at Newman Smith HS (2003-04) in Carrollton, Texas. He worked with the secondary at all three high schools and was also the defense coordinator his lone season at Gaither.
Johnson, who earned his bachelor's degree in health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University-Commerce in 1999 and his master's degree in the same field a year later, played collegiately at Kilgore College, Central Oklahoma and A&M-Commerce.
After taking a break in his college career to serve in the U.S. Air Force, Johnson earned All-Lone Star Conference South Division honors and a trip to the Snow Bowl as a senior in 1998. He also competed for the A&M-Commerce track and field team and served as president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Johnson, who was an all-district defensive back at Desoto (Texas) High School, has three daughters - Jayla, Kyra and Olivia.