Remembering Chris Johnson

Picture via Eric Christian Smith (SA Express News  

As the sun starts to creep out from behind the gray clouds of winter and the San Antonio “grass” starts to almost look green, the promise of spring football and the clean slate of a new season instills optimism and wide-eyedness.  While I’m still amped for spring football to start at 7 am tomorrow morning, I’m still taking my time to come to terms with the dismissal of freshman running back Chris Johnson.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. While Chris has endless talent, he has always struggled to maintain a clean rap sheet and academic eligibility. Just as major programs started to move in and attempt to steal Johnson from Coker following a monster senior year for the East Central running back (1,587 yards and 16 touchdowns in just nine games), he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and dismissed from the team.The Hornets went on to fail to score against Brandeis in the following week, leading to an early playoff exit for his squad.

Suitors backed off, and Johnson was essentially stuck with UTSA. Despite the young star’s fall from grace, Coach Coker stuck with the explosive tailback, even after Johnson initially failed to qualify at UTSA. During his Miami days, Coker was often criticized for his overabundance of faith in his players. Never one to shy from giving a second chance, Coker watched many of his former Hurricanes fail to clean up their act, leaving a stain on the program.

Maybe that’s what happened with Chris. I don’t want to let speculation run wild, but I know Johnson was close to a couple of other athletes that left the team this year. A negative influence? It’s tough to say without being in the locker room (and I hate when writers do this) but it’s certain that his suspension at the end of the past season set a poor example for his peers.

Chris was a kid that I really wanted to see succeed– how great of a story would that have been? Big time recruit takes chance on small-time hometown program, falls from grace, coach sticks with him, works hard in community college to gain eligibility, works his way in to the starting 11 and leads his hometown team to victory.

Unfortunately for every storybook ending in college football, there are a dozen more kids that slip through the cracks and suffer ill fates, or simply fail to realize an iota of their potential. Johnson was hands-down the most overpowering high school athlete I ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. With a stout frame and shifty, explosive footwork, Johnson regularly made 5A competition look like JV defenders.

At his best, Johnson was a threat to score every single time he touched the ball. He could do it by plowing over a middle linebacker on a dive or by twirling around cornerbacks and safeties on the outside. Johnson really was the complete package physically and athletically, but time and time again we are reminded that it takes mental preparedness and ethical make-up to play Division I football.

I hope that Chris elects to stay in school and finish his degree, whether it be at UTSA or elsewhere. As he said last winter, “God showed me that as quick as He can give me the world, He can take it away. I think I needed to see that before I took the next step. I really have learned from my mistakes”.

Tidbits:

Picture via Thao Nguyen (Dallas News)

Found a new potential walk-on today via Twitter. Kemon Wright will be joining the UTSA track team in the fall and walking on for football. Wright was an all-district cornerback at Dekaney High School in Houston. He reminds me of current Roadrunner Xaviar Archangel who pursued a similar route. Check out Kemon’s highlights on Hudl.

The Charlie Reeve hire is official, per goutsa.com. Charlie’s sons are named Bear and Ryder, y’all.

As all of our astute readers are aware, the Roadrunners will meet South Alabama in their first game of the 2012 season. The two teams were equally matched in 2011, sparring their way through two overtimes.

One of my favorite college football writers, Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders and SB Nation, chose South Alabama as his first team to preview for the 2012 season.

The Jaguars have actually seen a lot of change this offseason, as they will be moving to a spread offense following the firing of former offensive coordinator Greg Gregory. Picking up the flag is Robert Matthews, a guy that I’m quite frankly scared of. He’s young (34), innovative, and served under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Larry Fedora at Southern Miss, two fantastic offenses. Matthews is going to depend heavily on incumbent quarterback C.J. Bennett as the Jaguars aim to develop their passing game in the spread formation. I wasn’t quite impressed with Bennett last season, but he was playing as a true freshman. He certainly has a high ceiling, so if Matthews can coach him up then we could be facing a gunslinger in Mobile on August 30th.

Most intriguing to me is that South Alabama seems to be abandoning their power game, led by stud running backs Demetre Baker and Kendall Houston. Considering the Jaguar offensive line will return only two starters from last year,  perhaps it is a smart move.

The key for the Roadrunner defense will be to apply pressure on the inexperienced offensive line and entice Bennett to throw up some ducks as he did frequently in the Alamodome last year.

Be sure to follow the link to Connelly’s preview above. It is quite extensive. Actually, check out Football Outsiders for more of Connelly’s work. Don’t be shocked when you realize you just spent two hours reading articles though.

Profile photo of jared

About jared

A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches.

Twitter: