Wes Johnson named Georgia’s Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach
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Wes Johnson named Georgia’s Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach

Wes Johnson
Photo: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

ATHENS, Ga. – Wes Johnson, the renowned pitching coach for LSU, has been named the Ike Cousins head baseball coach at the University of Georgia, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks announced Monday.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Wes Johnson and his family to Athens and the University of Georgia,” said Brooks. “Wes has a proven track record of developing student-athletes while helping teams achieve impressive results. We aim to compete for postseason success and championships, and Wes has done that throughout his coaching career at every level, from high school to college and up to the Major Leagues. We are confident he will make Georgia Baseball one of the premier programs in the country.”

A native of Sherwood, Ark., Johnson became the first pitching coach in Major League Baseball (MLB) history to make the move directly from the college ranks to the big leagues when he was hired by the Minnesota Twins in November of 2018. He served as a collegiate pitching coach since 2008 with stints in the Southeastern Conference at Mississippi State and Arkansas before joining the Twins. Minnesota was the leading the American League Central Division in June of 2022 when he opted to return to the college game at LSU.

Johnson will remain with the Tigers (46-15) until their season is complete. They are the No. 5 NCAA Tournament National Seed and now will play Kentucky in a Super Regional starting Friday or Saturday in Baton Rouge with the winner of the three-game series advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Tigers are among the top eight national seeds for the first time since 2017.

“I am looking forward to leading the University of Georgia baseball program and want to thank President Jere Morehead and athletic director Josh Brooks for their support and this tremendous opportunity at one of the premier institutions in the SEC,” said Johnson. “Being the head coach at Georgia is a dream come true. I can’t wait to meet and start working with our amazing student-athletes and developing our plan to compete for SEC and National Championships. Also, I’d like to thank Scott Woodward and Jay Johnson at LSU as we pursue a national championship this season and for supporting me and my family as we embark on this incredible journey to lead the Bulldogs.”

The Twins won their division in Johnson’s first two years directing the pitching staff, and in 2020, the club ranked fourth in the Majors in ERA, WHIP and ninth in strikeouts per nine innings. Ace right-hander Kenta Maeda posted a 2.70 Earned Run Average (ERA) and a 6-1 mark to earn a runner-up finish for the American League Cy Young Award.

During his time as a college coach, 30 of Johnson’s pitchers have been drafted by MLB teams, and he has been at the forefront of utilizing Trackman technology. Current LSU ace Paul Skenes (11-2, 1.90 ERA, 179 Ks in 99.1 IP), who has been named the National Pitcher of the Year by multiple outlets, is projected as another first round MLB selection that Johnson has developed. As pitching coach at Arkansas, Johnson helped the 2018 Razorbacks reach the College World Series Finals as they finished 48-21. The top pitcher on that 2018 staff was Blaine Knight who went 14-0 with a 2.80 ERA and was a third-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles.

In his one season at Mississippi State, Johnson was instrumental in a dramatic turnaround by the Bulldogs going from worst to first. After winning only eight SEC games the previous year and having the highest ERA in the league, the 2016 club claimed the SEC regular-season title and advanced to an NCAA Super Regional. MSU won 44 games, its most since 1997. He produced six pitchers that were selected in the MLB Draft including Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Dakota Johnson who went 34th overall to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In four seasons at Dallas Baptist University (DBU), Johnson helped the Patriots to three NCAA Regional appearances, had 14 pitchers drafted and his pitching staffs set single season records for almost every major statistical category including ERA, strikeouts and saves. In 2015, DBU had five pitchers chosen in the first 12 rounds. Prior to Johnson’s arrival (1967-2011), DBU had only six pitchers drafted in the first 10 rounds. The 2015 Patriots won a school-record 46 games, hosted their first NCAA Regional and earned the program’s highest final ranking.

During his three seasons in the Southland Conference at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), Johnson’s pitching staffs set Division I school records in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, opponent batting average and fewest walks. In 2009 while on staff at Southern Arkansas, the Muleriders went 52-11 and were ranked No.1 in the Division II poll for 20 weeks. One of his star pitchers was Hayden Simpson who became the first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2010 MLB Draft.

Before going to UCA, Johnson spent four seasons as the head coach of Abundant Life High School in his hometown of Sherwood. He guided the Owls to a 102-25 record including one state title and two state championship game appearances.

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Arkansas Monticello in 1994. While at DBU, he tallied 33 hours working towards a masters in kinesiology. Johnson and his wife Angie, have three children: Ryan, Anna and Ava.

Wes Johnson Coaching Career
1997-2002: Assistant Coach, Sylvan Hills (Ark.) High School
2003: Assistant Coach, Arkansas Baptist High School
2004-2007: Head Coach, Abundant Life High School (Sherwood, Ark.)
2008: Pitching Coach, Central Arkansas
2009: Pitching Coach, Southern Arkansas
2010-11: Pitching Coach, Central Arkansas
2012-2015: Pitching Coach, Dallas Baptist
2016: Pitching Coach, Mississippi State
2017-18: Pitching Coach, Arkansas
2019-22: MLB Pitching Coach, Minnesota Twins
2023: Pitching Coach, LSU

Born: Sept. 9, 1971
Hometown: Sherwood, Ark.
Education: University of Arkansas Monticello, B.A. in Marketing, 1994
Family: Wife, Angie; Children: Ryan, Anna and Ava

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