As the Texas Longhorns look to the future and the beginning of the Charlie Strong era, they will be calling on some young players to step up their games in 2014 and take their place in the spotlight. The team needs some fresh faces to become playmakers and deliver on the potential that landed them offers for UT in the first place. No player is poised to have a bigger breakout season thanks to their expanded opportunities than Daje Johnson, who could spark the Longhorns to Big 12 contention in 2014.
Johnson came to Austin with the promise of becoming a dynamic offensive threat but the former coaching staff struggled to find touches for the talented athlete and Johnson struggled to stay out of trouble to deserve more opportunities. Over two seasons, Johnson has gotten just 94 touches, where he has flashed some brilliance. He’s accounted for 808 total yards (over 1,300 when you include returns) and has made his fair share of highlight reel plays.
During his frehsman year of 2012, Johnson lit up the Baylor Bears with an 84-yard touchdown run. In the 2013 opener against the New Mexico State Aggies, he busted out for 129 total yards of offense and two touchdowns. Against the Oklahoma Sooners in last season’s Red River Rivalry, he torched the Oklahoma special teams with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 36-20 victory.
Yet despite his positive plays on the field, negative actions off the field have really kept Johnson in the dog-house. Admitted immaturity has led to three one-game suspensions in his two years on campus, including for last December’s Valero Alamo Bowl. With a new coaching staff, the hope is that Johnson takes advantage of the fresh start by acting responsibly off the field so that he can be dynamic on it.
Johnson is a rare athlete that is dangerous every time he touches the football. Getting him opportunities in space as a running back, receiver, or returner will benefit the Texas offense as they begin a new regime in Austin. Can he provide the spark they need to take them to the top of the Big 12?