The scary part about Jordan Johnson – or perhaps it speaks to the University at Buffalo’s depth – is he’s merely the third tailback.
There are times when Johnson looks like an underclassmen learning how to play a new position, then there’s times like Saturday’s Blue & White Game when he shows flashes of becoming a star. The Sweet Home product rushed for 114 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead the Blue to a 20-8 victory over the White at UB Stadium.
Johnson provided the highlight moments in a game dominated by defense by piercing the second-team White defense for touchdown runs of 10 and 43 yards. He displayed breakaway speed on both runs, the kind of burst seldom seen from a 6-foot, 233-pound back.
“Aw man, Jordan Johnson is a great athlete,” UB safety Adam Redden said. “Phenomenal. He’s strong, he’s fast and it shows. He’s just a great piece to have and we’ll use him wisely during the season. It’s probably going to be a rotation of Anthone Taylor, Devin Campbell and Jordan Johnson now.”
When the depth chart is released, Johnson will likely stand behind the more experienced Anthone Taylor (42 yards on 15 carries)and Devin Campbell (12 yards on five carries), but the Bulls may have to find a place for the sophomore nonetheless.
“We were looking for a big day out of him and he rose to the occasion,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “Not only did he run the ball well, but I saw him get in there and make some key blocks and running the proper routes. He’s come along quite well.”
Much like last Saturday’s scrimmage, the defense dictated the game’s tempo.
Safety Okezie Alozie had a game-high 10 tackles, including six solos, while linebacker Lee Skinner had eight tackles, a half sack and two breakups. Redden had three tackles, two for a loss and linebacker Brandon Crawford finished with five tackles, a sack and an interception. They didn’t allow a touchdown pass, and Johnson was the only player who scored a touchdown.
Quarterback Tony Daniel, who ran with the first string all spring while incumbent Joe Licata recovers from hip surgery, completed 13 of 26 for 163 yards, while Collin Michael finished 16 of 32 for 175 yards. Craig Slowik completed 2 for 11 for 35 yards.
“We saw some new stuff from the defense that we haven’t seen the whole spring,” Daniel said. “They were pressing our receivers and there were tighter windows in so we struggled a little bit.”
The exception being Johnson, a humble player who happily hands out credit to running backs coach Matt Simon and others while downplaying his ability.
“It’s two other good running backs in the backfield and we have an incoming freshman coming in,” he said. “Whoever it is in the backfield, I feel like we’re going to get the job done and do what we have to do to help this team. … You have to credit the O-line and the receivers blocking and I just did what I was coached to do. Anyone could have run the ball, that’s just my job.”
But isn’t it more than Simon says? Like the 43-yard touchdown.
“It was just a wide-open hole,” Johnson said. “My fullback, Glynn Molinich, had a good block and I just ran up the crease.”
And the 10-yard score?
“It was the same play, Johnson said. “I just happened to bounce it to the opposite side. There was a good block by Malcolm Robinson.”
Apparently others will have to speak up for Johnson.
“I’m looking for consistency from Jordan and he really showed me a lot of how much he’s maturing,” Simon said. “I think he’s going to really give us a full stable so to speak, but I think he rounds out our group.”
Said Daniel: “He’s always top-notch. I don’t know how many yards he ran, but he had the long run for the touchdown, just an explosive player who’s really going to help us out this year. He’s going to be a great asset for us. In each of our scrimmages he’s had runs like that. We’re going to find ways to get him in the offense.”
And – which may be the scariest part of all – he’s still learning how to be a tailback. As an option quarterback at Sweet Home, Johnson rushed for 1,365 yards and 22 TDs while throwing for 830 yards with nine TDs as a senior.
“We’re going to see some super things from him from time to time, and we’re going to continue to nurture that and develop it and create some consistency,” Simon said. “You can see there’s so much potential in him.”