Thursday, August 07, 2008

Brandon Johnson - UW Difference Makers

Everyone talks about Jake Locker, but the most important player on the team that needs to come through in 2008 is TB Brandon Johnson. We got a glimpse of what Brandon can do in 2007 during the second half of the California game. He came in for an injured Louis Rankin and just punished the vaunted California defense for his first 100 yard game. When the guy ahead of you is putting together a 1200 yard plus season there aren't a lot of opportunities, but in 2007 Brandon impressed the fans and coaches with a solid effort in his first year on campus.

In 2008 Johnson has the chance to establish himself as the man to lead the Husky running attack over the next three years he is on campus. Behind him is a stable of talented running backs led by Willie Griffin, Brandon Yakaboski, Chris Polk, Curtis Shaw, Johri Fogerson, David Freeman, and Terrance Dailey. All these kids are hungry for playing time, and Brandon is going to have to hold them off this fall because almost every position on a 4-9 football team is up for grabs.

What I like about Brandon is that he is physical, plus he still has the speed to pop the big one. He is the kind of kid that you hope you can count on to pick up a long 3rd and two in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. No knock on Louis Rankin, but he never developed into that guy, and for Washington to take it to the next level they need Johnson, or someone else to emerge to be that guy.

We haven't seen the true freshman play yet, but Brandon has a decided edge over Griffin and Yakaboski going into camp based on his performance last season. Curtis Shaw is needed more at WR so will be playing more SB, but Chris Polk on the other hand seems to be in the early mix at TB. Brandon is going to be challenged by Polk early in camp, and it is imperative that he steps up and meets the challenge to hold the talented freshman off.

Brandon reported to camp at around 195 pounds which is around 5-10 pounds lighter than you would like the second year running back to be. He had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in early May and the coaches don't feel he is 100% yet coming into camp. As we shared with you yesterday there are some people associated with the program who feel he didn't put in enough work during rehab, and overall conditioning this past summer.

The second year in the program is always tough for most of the kids. The first year of school, and all the work you have to put in during the off season can wear anyone down. Sometimes kids simply need a bit of a mental break to clear their minds out. We all have to remember that all the second year players have been going non stop since last August, and it isn't unusual for them to feel burned out after the spring, especially when you have to have some surgery.

Brandon had the opportunity to be interviewed by the PI's Molly Yanity yesterday and he had these comments. I think there is a pretty good chance that Brandon's father is one of our readers.

Sophomore tailback Brandon Johnson got a phone call Tuesday. It was his father, Anthony. The elder Johnson had read online his son may have slacked off a bit during summer workouts.
Johnson didn't dodge the question. "It sounds like excuses, but part of it was my knee was bothering me, then my housing situation," he said, explaining he lived in Northgate and his teammate, Tyrone Duncan, had been in an accident. So, he said, he lost his ride to morning workouts.

Once again another reason to extend the Sound Transit Light Rail line from Husky Stadium to Northgate. Unfortunately by the time that happens Brandon hopefully will be a retired veteran NFL running back with plenty of coin in the bank.

Brandon is about to be challenged over the next three weeks by one of the better athletes who has ever set foot on the University of Washington campus. It is going to be real fun to see how this battle shakes out before the season starts. The competition is going to elevate the play of each player, and no matter who wins in the pre season the battle will continue every week in practice during the season. Washington is going to need 2-3 backs they can count on this season, count on Brandon Johnson being one of them.

Ty Willingham is kind of like a gentler version of the Captain played by Strother Martin in "Cool Hand Luke."

"What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week - which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men."

This is going to be a battle, and I think Brandon is going to do some very good things this year, but he needs to bring his "A" game over the next three weeks.


bigdave967 said...


Been awhile since I posted but I am feeling the itch...I love college football!

With everything that I have read about Polk, it seems that he will be the featured back. They say the kid is electrifying. With a solid O-Line, a very good QB, and a beast RB Polk in the backfield...this could be a start to something special. Hopefully the young WR's start to play like they were hyped up to be and we could see a very dangerous offense.

Defense on the other hand...seems like the Safety positions are pretty set with a solid group of starters and back ups and the LB's (with or without Savannah) are going to be the leaders of this defense. But they wont be worth toilet paper if they dont get blocking up front from the big boys. Cant make plays on your back. I am holding on to faith that Donatell will have these guys ready as ever to make the leap from god awful to average (which would be a pretty decent jump in one year). An average Defense with a very good offense could mean 6-8 win season...fingers crossed!

John Berkowitz said...

I think no matter what happens three backs will play quite a bit this season.

I also think Louis Rankin going 12 1/2 games last season was the exception to the rule for most teams.

I think the young WR's will do well too, there is way too much talent for them not to do well.

The big area of concern is the interior of the defensive line. I am not sold on Elisara, and it is beginning to look like we are not going to get any help from the freshmen class.

Lets hope Kelemente, Noble get in, and Ta'amu isn't hindered by his foot so he contribute this year.

hairofthedawg said...

I like your "god awful to average" remark Dave, and average would be very welcome. After reading quite a bit on the team this off season, thanks to John and his sidebar, I think the biggest factor will be attitude.

I remember last year wishing the team would use a more attacking style of play. We may not have had the personnel to do so, but the guys, didn't seem to have the attitude needed to do so either. I like what I'm reading so far this fall with regard to getting that attack mentality back.

Like you...I've got the itch.

Anonymous said...

I've just completely lost any and all respect for Brandon Johnson.

When in the name of Steve Emtman are we going to get some freakin' tough players back in this program? Johnson, the heir apparent at RB, says he didn't make it to workouts because he didn't have a ride??? Holy crap, what kind of a load of BS is that??? I live in the Northgate area, too, and also am recovering from knee surgery in April. It's only a stinking 15 minute bike ride for me to get to UW Sports Medicine for my rehab, and I'm a fat, bald, 42 year-old has been! UW Sports Medicine sits about 50 feet from the UW's weight room, and if I can ride my bike to strengthen the knee, why can't an elite Division 1 athlete? It's exactly this weenie, excuse-making kind of an attitude that got the program into this position in the first place.

Come on, Brandon, ride a bike, walk the four miles, or take a bus, but quit making excuses!

bigdave967 said...

I too was very discouraged when I heard that he didnt have a ride from Northgate. My dad lives across the street and I know the bus station is right infront of Toys R Us (?)...I really hope that Polk lives up to the hype because he could have the single biggest impact on this team.

Take a ride with me into the future...

Lets say Polk has a great year at RB (freshmen RB's having great years is not that uncommon). That will open up the playbook exponentially. They could start running an Oregon/Flordia type offense that has people cross eyed trying to figure out what they will do on every play. With a big receiving target in Middleton and having the "Flea", Kearse, Burns, etc at WR...this offense could be deadly.

you know what really gets me up in the morning...This whole offense is coming back next year!!!! Put a smile on your face...if Ty gets the can (and we all know i hope that doesnt happen) any coach with half a brain will see no make that platinum.

But lets not bring the mood down by talking Def...........

John Berkowitz said...

Lets cap it off with that he has his head on straight right now and we expect him to have a pretty good season in 2008.

I haven't lost respect for the kid, this happens more often than you think. these kids have a lot of work on their plate and it is rarer than you think when a kid is here 4-5 years without getting a little down.