CEDAR FALLS – UNI football has announced the return of Jeremiah Johnson to the coaching staff for the 2023 season as an assistant coach.
Johnson, who previously coached for the Panthers’ in a variety of defensive roles since 2007, returns to Cedar Falls after serving as the defensive coordinator at Kent State in 2022.
In his first 15 seasons at UNI, Johnson helped coach 30 First Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) defenders, 5 MVFC Defensive Players of the Year, one Buck Buchanan Award winner, 15 AP FCS All-Americans and 7 AFCA All-Americans. Johnson has also coached a number of defenders who have gone on to play professionally, including current Miami Dolphin cornerback Elijah Campbell, New York Giants defensive end Elerson Smith and defensive lineman and current CFL Grey Cup champion Jared Brinkman.
In his most recent season with the Panthers in the fall of 2021, Johnson coached the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation, a unit that allowed only 19 points per game. Three UNI defenders would earn First Team All-MVFC honors, with Jared Brinkman becoming the fifth MVFC Defensive Player of the Year during Johnson’s tenure.
Despite the COVID-19 shortened spring season in 2021, UNI still posted a strong unit defensively despite a tough 3-4 season. The Panthers had the MVFC’s top red zone defense, ranking No. 8 nationally, while also posting a top-20 defense, giving up just under 285 total yards per game.
The Panthers posted another top-10 national ranked defensive season in 2019, helping propel UNI to the FCS quarterfinals with postseason wins over San Diego and conference rival South Dakota. UNI ranked No. 3 in the nation with 19 interceptions on the season, including 6 from Omar Brown and 4 by Christian Jegen.
UNI’s defense under Johnson recorded four defensive touchdowns in 2017, ranked No. 7 in the nation in a season that saw the Panthers reach the second round of the FCS playoffs. Elijah Campbell, who would go on to play in the NFL, AAF and XFL starting in 2018, led the MFVC in pass deflections and interceptions.
Johnson played an integral part of UNI’s defensive unit finishing ranked in the top-15 in the country in eight different statistical categories in three consecutive seasons, including a top-10 total defense rank to end the 2016 campaign. He has sent multiple defensive players to the NFL, including fourth round pick to the Chicago Bears, Deiondre’ Hall.
Johnson directed the defensive unit that led the league and was No. 9 in the country in total defense in 2016. He coached five athletes to earn MVFC All-Conference selections, including Karter Schult, who earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Year. Schult went on to be named a consensus All-American, earning the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in FCS football. He was also at the head of a defense that saw a brand new secondary finish No. 5 in the FCS in defensive touchdowns and No. 12 in passes intercepted.
During the 2015 season, the Panthers finished with the second ranked defense in the country, ranked No. 13 in passes intercepted, No. 9 in red zone defense, No. 18 in rushing defense and No. 19 in scoring defense on the way to being one of the most powerful defenses in FCS football. Johnson coached cornerback Deiondre Hall to MVFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, who would go on to be drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Johnson also helped coach linebacker Brett McMakin to All-America status.
In 2014, Johnson saw two linebackers, Jake Farley and McMakin, earn All-MVFC honors. Farley finished the season leading the Valley in tackles while McMakin ended his season ranked 34th in the country in total sacks.
The 2013 season for the Panthers saw a young defensive core shine while making big plays for the team. Johnson coached the defense to finishing in the top-30 in the FCS in four defensive statistical categories, including being ranked 19th in the country in total defense. Johnson also saw senior linebacker Jordan Gacke finish with All-MVFC honors.
Johnson served as the defensive backs coach during the 2012 season, seeing seniors Varmah Sonie, Garrett Scott and Wilmot Wellington shine for the Panthers. Wellington led the Panthers in tackles with 85. Johnson led Sonie and Scott to 131 combined tackles, with Sonie earning All-MVFC second team and Scott earning honorable mention status.
His previous three seasons at UNI, Johnson served as recruiting coordinator and assistant defensive backs coach. He also split duties as a secondary coach and video coordinator in 2007 and 2008. As an assistant on the defensive side of the ball, UNI’s defense finished ranked in the top-25 in total defense in 2007 and 2008 under his direction, also finishing tied for third in the FCS in passes intercepted in 2008.
Johnson, a native of Lawrence, Kansas, spent the 2003-2006 seasons at Loras College on the Duhawk coaching staff. Johnson assisted with the defensive backs in 2006 after helping with the wide receivers in 2005. Johnson’s first two years at Loras were spent coaching the defensive backs.
Prior to his work at Loras, Johnson was a graduate assistant/video coordinator at the University of Wyoming in 2002.
A 2000 graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in sports science, Johnson completed his master’s degree in athletic administration at Loras in 2005.
Johnson is married to his wife Nicki with their son Lane, and daughter Drew.