How often do you see a team’s starting quarterback also play as their primary kick and punt returner? The most recent example I can think of is Antwaan Randle-El, who did it for Indiana back in the late 90s-early 2000s. That was remarkable because he did it for college.
Watching it happen at any level outside of pee-wee ball is surprising for me because most teams wouldn’t want their quarterbacks to get hurt playing special teams. But D.J. Johnson isn’t most quarterbacks. For what it’s worth he doesn’t project as a quarterback at the next level but that’s irrelevant because there are several positions Johnson can play.
Watching Johnson in one half of play last week I can tell you one thing for certain — he needs the ball in his hands as often as possible. Kick returns, punt returns, quarterback, slot, running back…Johnson is just electric. There’s nothing conventional about his play, Johnson will change directions, give up room on the field and change directions again just to end up with a positive yards gain. He makes everyone’s jaw drop and even opponents are caught somewhere between frustration for their failure to tackle him and awe for his ability to escape any situation and make a play.
Johnson’s next level potential is on offense but at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds he’s too short to play quarterback full time. He is probably going to experience his best fit at slot receiver but he’s thick enough to play in the backfield as a slot back or something similar. Johnson is plenty fast but more quick and agile. His vision is strong and he has very good conditioning to continue to make play after play running around all over the field. Right now Johnson’s interest is coming from USF, Western Kentucky, Samford, Eastern Kentucky and Northwest Missouri State. USF would be smart to take this local talent but if his grades are on track I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of power 5 schools try to make him a late addition to their class.