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Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns running back Montrell Johnson 'a bright spot' in scrimmage

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

UL freshman running back Montrell Johnson Jr. is getting noticed. Just ask coach Billy Napier.

Napier said Johnson was “a bright spot,” in last Saturday’s closed scrimmage, the first one for the No. 23 Ragin’ Cajunssince starting preseason practice Aug. 6.

“I thought he was very effective as a runner,” Napier said.

Johnson, an Arizona commit before signing with UL in December, was ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 48 running back coming out of De La Salle High in New Orleans.

He rushed for all four of De La Salle’s touchdowns in its 35-28 LSHAA Division II state championship game loss to St. Thomas More High in December.

“He hit me with a spin move in the scrimmage game," said starting safety Percy Butler. "… I like him. He’s going to be a player for the Cajuns.”

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Johnson  is among four running backs in UL’s 2021 signing class, along with Carencro’s Kendrell Williams, Many’s Terrence Williams and Dre’lyn Washington of Hemphill High in Texas.

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Johnson is vying with returnees T.J. Wisham and Emani Bailey for a spot in the running backs rotation behind projected starter Chris Smith.

“He’s worked hard,” offensive guard O’Cyrus Torrence said of Johnson.

“He’s one of those young guys that he comes in and you just know he’s got a nose for running the ball.

“He just looks good. He doesn’t look intimidated. He knows the plays,” Torrence added. “He’s picking all the things fast, picking up on the speed of college football.”

Montrell Johnson Jr., shown here running for De La Salle High against St. Thomas More during a 2019 state championship game, is turning heads now as a freshman running back in UL's preseason camp.

Napier said that the scrimmage had “a lot of good, a lot of bad and some ugly.”

“We did put the ball on the ground a couple times, which is very uncharacteristic of our running back group,” he said. “That’s something we definitely need to shore up and make a focal point in the next week.”

Fields, Wooldridge still battling

Napier said everything is status quo in the battle between returnee Chandler Fields and Fresno State transfer Ben Wooldridge for the right to be starting quarterback Levi Lewis’ primary backup.

“That’s a very heated competition,” Napier said.

“Both guys did some good things in the scrimmage, and (there are) also some areas where they can get better. I think that’s play-to-play, period-to-period, practice-to-practice."

UL injury updates

Napier said reserve defensive lineman Sonny Hazard is out 3-to-4 weeks after undergoing wrist surgery and that reserve offensive line King McGowen is out 2-to-3 weeks after having arthroscopic surgery for an undisclosed “lower-body issue.”

He also said backup defensive lineman Kendall Wilkerson and reserve inside linebacker/special teams player Jasper Williams are our “day-to-day” with undisclosed “upper-body injuries.”