Longhorns prepare for game without Daje Johnson

Peter Sblendorio

Sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson entered the season without a defined role in the Texas offense.

Two weeks later, the Longhorns are searching for ways to replace his production.

Johnson is inactive for Saturday’s game against Ole Miss after suffering a left ankle injury on just his second carry against BYU, and is currently rolling around campus on a motorized scooter. Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said that while the team employs certain plays that revolve around Johnson’s speed, he does not expect to change the offensive game plan much without the sophomore in the lineup.

“There are certain things that he can do and certain plays that we wanted to get the ball in his hands specifically for, but we can still run,” Applewhite said. “We aren’t as explosive without
that guy.”

After recording 287 yards through the air while rushing for 203 yards as a freshman last season, Johnson broke out in his first game of 2013 with 129 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. While this production is difficult to replace, senior offensive guard Mason Walters expects someone to step up in
his absence.

“It’s tough because Daje showed last year and this week that he’s a big-time playmaker,” Walter said. “There’s a void right now and somebody has a chance to step up. I hope he gets back as quickly as possible. Nobody is irreplaceable. We’re going to play a game on Saturday, and somebody is going to have to step up and
show up.”

One player who could see an increase in touches is junior running back Malcolm Brown. Despite opening the year as one of the top three running backs on the Texas depth chart, Brown is just sixth on the Longhorns with 18 yards on the ground on only six carries.

Brown is the Longhorns’ most active receiver in the backfield, compiling 124 yards and a touchdown through the air on five receptions. The junior realizes that Johnson’s contributions are tough to replicate, but he expects the Texas skill position players to be up to the task.

“We’ll miss Daje on the field but at same time we have guys that can take over that roll,” Brown said. “Fast guys and young receivers can get out there and do that job. They know those plays so we’ll just have someone step up for us. We’ll still be running the same plays; we’ll just have some guys step up into that roll.”

The Longhorns must also account for the hole left by Johnson at wide receiver. Senior wide receiver Mike Davis, who leads the Longhorns with 177 receiving yards and three touchdowns, figures to see even more targets without Johnson, while junior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley and sophomore wide receiver Kendall Sanders take on new roles within the offense.

“With Daje out, Jaxon Shipley will go to the slot, and Kendall Sanders will move to the wide receiver spot across from Mike Davis,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Kendall made some good plays Saturday night. Mike and Jaxon Shipley made some great plays.”

The loss of Johnson presents a challenging obstacle for the Texas offense, but the Longhorns believe they possess the pieces to step up without their
standout sophomore.