Thursday, June 13, 2013
Burnt Orange Breakdown: Daje Johnson
By Carter Strickland
During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
From No. 1 Mike Davis to No. 99 Desmond Jackson, HornsNation is evaluating the Texas roster numerically. View the entire Burnt Orange Breakdown series.
Expectations for 2013: Johnson should get the ball much more in 2013 than he did in 2012. New play-caller Major Applewhite appears to be embracing the speed that Texas has and he understands the weapon that Johnson could be for his offense. Texas will move Johnson into different positions and is not afraid to put him in as running back. It’s unlikely that he will see any direct snaps. But he should be a fixture on sweeps, quick screens, shuttle passes, etc. Johnson had 490 combined yards form scrimmage last season on just 46 touches. Expect him to get closer to 75 touches and 650 yards in 2013.
Best-case scenario in 2013: Johnson is Texas’ top threat to take the ball the distance. He did it twice last season, going for 84 yards on one touchdown run and another 70 yards on an inside sweep pass. With Texas committed to more of a spread offense, it should allow for quick-hitting plays that Johnson specializes in. Also, the offense’s new tempo should wear down a defense, which would allow Johnson a better opportunity to catch that side of the ball resting. Johnson should be able to play off what will be a better run game, too. A steady diet of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown should set up Johnson for some quick-hitting plays to exploit the defense. And, again, screen passes might be more effective out in the flat because Texas is now spreading its weapons out instead of clumping them inside the hash marks.
Worst-case scenario in 2013: Johnson could get crowded out of the playbook by all the new weapons Texas has moving to different positions. The coaching staff liked what Duke Thomas did on offense in the last part of spring an will tinker with the idea of playing him on both sides of the ball in the fall. Also Jalen Overstreet has been moved to a hybrid type position. Overstreet is not as fast as Johnson but does have very good speed and looks to be a much more durable runner. He was recruited as a wide receiver by some programs so he should also have decent hands at that position.
Texas did not do a good job last season of distributing the ball to its speed players -- Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe -- so there will be some questions as to whether or not Applewhite can effectively employ Thomas, Johnson and Overstreet in addition to the three running backs and two other wide receivers.
Future expectations: Texas clearly likes the ability that Johnson brings to the game, and that is why the Longhorns are now seeking out faster, shiftier players in recruiting. They can break games open. Johnson was singled out for how well he did in the spring so he is poised to have a big season. If he remains healthy, he could expand his duties into punt and kickoff returns. Since he is just a sophomore, Texas has three years to figure out how to best exploit Johnson’s talents. Undoubtedly, the Longhorns will continue to try and get him the ball in as many spots as possible over the next few seasons.