Before the 2012 season, few Longhorn fans were aware of freshman running back Daje Johnson. Following last Saturday’s victory over Baylor, the former Hendrickson High School star from Pflugerville is firmly planted on the Texas radar.
Johnson, who was originally committed to TCU, set the pace early, rushing for an 84-yard touchdown on the first play of the game against Baylor. This comes as no surprise, as Johnson has been electric all season.
“Daje is real fast, and when he gets the ball in space, he’s got a chance to score,” head coach Mack Brown said.
It’s high praise for such a young player, praise that is drawing comparisons to former Longhorn running back Ramonce Taylor. While Taylor was never able to finish his Texas career due to off-field troubles, he is remembered as a play maker that helped Texas win the 2005 National Championship. So how do these two backs compare? Let’s take a look at the stats.
To start, let’s look at their rushing numbers. During Taylor’s freshman campaign in 2004, the former Belton High School star rushed for 283 yards and one touchdown, averaging 10.5 yards a carry. His sole touchdown came on a 47-yard run against Oklahoma State which tied a game that Texas had been trailing 35-7 at one point. The run propelled the Longhorns to 21 additional unanswered points, capping off the biggest comeback in Longhorn history.
For his two-season career at Texas, Taylor rushed for 797 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards a carry. So far in 2012, Johnson has rushed the ball 16 times for 140 yards and a score. Johnson’s 8.8 yards per carry average is a little behind pace of Taylor’s freshman campaign but nonetheless effective.
While Taylor’s freshman year didn’t highlight his receiving ability, his sophomore year certainly did. Taylor caught 27 balls for 265 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 9.8 yards a catch. In seven games this season, Johnson has caught 13 balls for 198 yards and a score, with an average of 15.2 yards a catch.
Taylor was an extremely effective kickoff return man in 2005, returning 15 kicks for 441 yards, with an average of 29.4 yards per return. This season seniors Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe have handled the bulk of the kickoff returns. However, Johnson returned four kicks of his own for a total of 83 yards, with 20.8 yards on average per return. While Taylor returned five punts as a freshman, Johnson has yet to be utilized in that situation.
There is no denying the similarities between these two play makers. Each was and is able to change momentum in favor of Texas at any given moment. Had Taylor remained with the Longhorns, his stock certainly would have risen.
Johnson seems destined to continue to make a name for himself on the 40 Acres. Every time he touches the ball, the result is typically at least a first down. Texas will rely heavily on Johnson’s play-making ability down the stretch of the season.
Printed on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 as: Johnson mirrors former Texas RB