Despite the limited playing time, though, Johnson was voted to serve as a co-captain for one of the 10 teams that competed throughout the offseason program, evidence of the leadership that he has provided.
Why this spring is important
Johnson goes into the spring as one of three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (James Graham and Tobias Oliver are the others) with two signees scheduled to arrive in the summer (Demetrius Knight and Jordan Yates). Given the experience that Oliver gained last season as the backup to Marshall and the productivity that he demonstrated – four 100-yard rushing games – it might well have been difficult to beat him out for the starting job.
However, the re-set caused by Collins’ hire returned everyone to level ground. And, as Johnson is considered to be the best passer in the group, a coach coming in with an offense more oriented to the pass could give him an inside track on the job. Johnson, for that matter, is more than adept as a ballcarrier, a trait he put on display in the past two spring games.
What his role could be
There will be a lot of learning and trial in the spring with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Patenaude, and all of the quarterbacks will have plenty to digest. It will be critical to not just be able to have the physical tools but also to quickly grasp and execute Patenaude’s scheme.
Consequently, staying healthy and being available for as many practices as possible will also be important.
All that said, Johnson is bright, likely eager and energized by a new challenge. He could well emerge from the spring at the top of the depth chart going into the summer.
Johnson’s high-school coach at Mt. Carmel High in San Diego, John Anderson:
“He seems to be fitting in really well. He seems to be on the same page with the coaching staff throughout the winter and moving into the spring, and he seems to share the same vision that the offensive staff has for them, to spread things out a little bit more and make use of his speed and his arm. It’s kind of turned into a best-case situation, being named captain, having had to sit out all last year, maybe rest his body a little bit, rehab.”