To preview Texas’ season, we’re continuing to spend part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.
Today’s question, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden and beat writer Brian Davis:
No. 9: What’s the best way to utilize Daje Johnson?
Johnson, a 5-10, 178-pound junior receiver/running back/returner from Pflugerville Hendrickson, has only eight starts in his career. And he’s only made it into 21 games. Yet he remains one of the most dangerous playmakers on the roster — an 84-yard TD run vs. Baylor in 2012, a 85-yard punt return TD vs. Oklahoma last year. When Johnson gets his hands on the ball, big things can happen. But getting the ball into his hands has been a challenge at times.
Johnson’s career at Texas, stats-wise:
2012 (freshman): 12 games, 2 starts. Had 27 carries for 203 yards and a TD, and 19 catches for 287 yards and a TD. There was the 84-yard TD against Baylor and a 70-yard catch against Kansas State.
2013 (sophomore): 9 games, 6 starts. Had 24 carries for 147 yards and a TD, and 24 catches for 178 yards and a TD. He had a 66-yard catch against New Mexico State.
He’s got five career plays of 45 or more yards, including three TDs of 65-plus yards.
He could be used at receiver this fall, which would help make up for the losses of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. He could shift over to running back, as freshmen are backing up Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. He could return kicks or punts, as he has in the past.
So, what’s Johnson’s best role for this team?
BOHLS: MR. EVERYTHING.
“On the field, anywhere and everywhere. He’s probably the fastest man on the roster, but he could be removed from that roster just as fast because he seems to find trouble far too often. He’ll be suspended at least one game for violating one of Charlie Strong’s core values, but he can be a unique weapon as a pass receiver, a running back and a kick returner. He’s the only player in school history with a punt return and a run from scrimmage of 80 yards or more.”
GOLDEN: REMEMBER RAMONCE?
“I would use Johnson the same way Greg Davis used Ramonce Taylor — get him out in space where he can utilize his game-breaking skills. Johnson has the ability to change a game with one play, so anytime he can get his hands on the ball is a benefit for Texas, be it in a multiple-receiver set, at running back or on special teams. Remember that he had an 85-yard punt return last season and a 66-yard reception. He’s the best pure athlete on this team, and Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson must find a way to get him involved in these games, early and often.”
DAVIS: MORE TOUCHES.
“From an overall skill standpoint, Johnson may be one of the best playmakers on the roster. He averages 10.4 yards every time he touches the ball. Think about that for a second. Whether it’s rushing, receiving, returning kicks or punts … 10.4 yards per touch. Last season, nobody on the roster had more explosive plays (10 yards or more) than Johnson’s 29.
“All that said, Johnson landed himself in academic trouble by becoming ineligible for the Alamo Bowl. That immediately landed him on Strong’s radar as soon as the coach arrived in early January. Strong has tightened the screws on Johnson arguably tighter than any other player. Johnson is going to be suspended at least one game — the season opener — for a violation of team rules. So here’s what it boils down to: Johnson is a fantastic athlete who needs to get out of Strong’s doghouse. And the coach won’t let him out until the player proves he’s ready. Hopefully for Johnson, that’s sooner rather than later.”
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