Trio of FBS transfers make big impact at Tech

What do you get when you give a Jayhawk, a Beaver and a Wildcat a Tech uniform? A stellar combination of rushing, kicking and defense.Joc Crawford, Matt Barker and Will Johnson each transferred from Football Bowl Subdivision programs to play for the Golden Eagles this season, and each has been a significant addition to the roster.

Crawford is a 6-foot-1-inch, 238-pound running back from Memphis. He transferred from the University of Kansas after the 2008 season. After sitting out last year due to NCAA rules, Crawford has made his presence known, leading the Golden Eagles in rushing yards (443) and rushing touchdowns (6).

“A situation happened at Kansas where I didn’t feel comfortable there anymore,” he said.

Crawford rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns in his lone season as a Jayhawk.

“I loved Kansas,” he said, “but things just didn’t work out the way [Kansas coach Mark Mangino] and I had talked about.

“I felt like I needed a change,” Crawford said, “so I decided to come here.”

After visiting Lamar and Abilene Christian universities, he chose Tech as the school at which he wanted to end his career.

“I sprained my MCL and didn’t want to sit out a year in Texas so far away from my family,” he said, “so I decided to come closer to home.”

Crawford said he is happy with his decision to come to Tech.

“I get along fine with Coach Brown,” he said. “He’s a great coach and he really doesn’t take any crap from anybody.

“It’s a good fit for me.”

Barker, a sophomore kicker from Spokane, Wash., transferred to Tech after spending a year at Oregon State.

“I was at Oregon State, and things weren’t working out,” he said. “After my freshman season there, they fired [Dave Ungerer], the coach that recruited me.”

After redshirting his sophomore year, Barker decided to transfer. Coach Ungerer contacted the staff at Tech and got Barker in touch with them.

“This looked like the best bet as far as football goes,” Barker said, “and as far as the school setting that I wanted to be in.”

Barker is 6-9 on field goal attempts this season, with each of his misses coming from beyond 40 yards.

“I didn’t want to be in a really small town,” he said. “[Tech] is one of the bigger schools that I looked at.”

Barker also looked at other FBS schools but did not want be forced to sit out a year.

“I think it worked out pretty well,” he said. “I’ve had a pretty good season, considering it’s my first season.

“I’m looking to finish the season strong and get a couple of wins then coming back strong again next season and trying to get a title.”

Johnson is a 215-pound linebacker from Nashville. A graduate of Pearl-Cohn High School, he played his first two seasons of collegiate football at the University of Kentucky.

He also transferred to Tech due to a coaching change.

“The head coach that I went there with [Rich Brooks] retired,” he said, “so I decided I was going to leave too.”

Johnson said he looked at other schools, but because he already knew some of the players at Tech, he decided to come to Cookeville.

“Howard Griffin got me in touch with Coach Brown,” he said, “and from then on, I knew I was going to come here.”

Johnson opened the season with an eight-tackle outing at Arkansas, earning a starting job at TCU with that performance.

“I’m happy with the decision,” he said, “besides being hurt right now.”

Johnson has totaled 43 tackles this season including a sack and four tackles for loss. He also has three pass breakups and leads the team with a pair of fumbles forced.

Barker and Johnson each have two years of eligibility as Golden Eagles after this season. Crawford, however, will sport a Tech jersey for the final time as he celebrates senior day at next week’s game against Jacksonville State.