Texas wide receiver and running back Daje Johnson is not fond of his nickname, "Squirrel," bestowed on him by defensive back Quandre Diggs. If Johnson is looking for a replacement, he could do worse than "Joker," referencing the rise of offensive players that can line up all over the field to create mismatches. And the 5-foot-10, 180-pound speedster did just that in the Longhorns' 56-7 rout of New Mexico State.
Johnson was the only player in the FBS to have more than 50 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in Week 1. The sophomore had three receptions for 67 yards, with a 66-yard touchdown catch, and six carries for 62 yards, with a 24-yard touchdown. He also added a 10-yard punt return.
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"That's stuff that he does every day in practice. He can break a few ankles," Diggs told the Dallas Morning News. "He can do some things that you rarely see with guys with the ball."
That big-play ability flashed during his first season in Austin, scoring on an 84-yard run against Baylor and 70-yard catch against Kansas State. Johnson had two other receptions longer than 40 yards, but wasn't ready for the off-field requirements necessary to be a more consistent piece of the offense.
"It's all changed. It's all in the past," Johnson said. "Being in meetings, being on time for everything, giving 100 percent on the field, just doing everything right."
Now that those issues are resolved, Texas coaches have clearly made it a point of emphasis to put the ball in his hands in as many ways as possible. His 50 total touches in 12 games last season produced 573 yards, an average of 11.46 yards per play. On Saturday, Johnson delivered 24 percent of his freshman output, but in one game.
With that kind of versatility at a premium in both the college and professional ranks, it isn't hard to see Johnson and his all-purpose brethren -- De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon, Dri Archer of Kent State and the like -- being valued that much more by NFL evaluators.