When I first signed up for this article, I planned to write about how Johnson’s many talents would open up the offense and provide new threats for ACC defenses to deal with. I planned to rave about how play action off the threat of a Dedrick Mills dive would completely freeze the defense and lead to quick strikes, and how Johnson’s speed would torch opposing defenses.
However, one awful, screaming hot take would not leave the back of mind as I prepared for this writing. One I simply could not ignore. One that so grated on my thoughts that I dedicated this entire article to addressing it.
“He’s a throwing QB so he can’t play in the system so he’s going to suck because Vad Lee”
I can’t let this one go, so I’m going to dispel it once and for all using film!
Johnson’s high school film displays his multitude of athletic talent, from his top end speed and elusiveness to his howitzer of an arm. If you want to see him in a more option-oriented system, you can check his sophomore highlights on his hudl page. But we have even more recent film of Johnson that dispels the hot take above.
The spring game offers the most recent film of Johnson playing, and shows him within the system, making reads and running the Flexbone. I’ve compiled a list of Option plays run by Johnson during the game, and took a look at each read to see if Johnson played “within the system”
It should be noted that CPJ called an uncharacteristically large number of Belly series plays during the spring game for all QBs, so we got more looks at Johnson’s ability to read the pitch read than the mesh, unfortunately.
Q1 8:57 2nd and 10 - BELLY OPTION: This is the big touchdown run. The pitch read has his shoulders turned towards the pitch, so the correct read was to keep it. Johnson shows off his home run speed here.
Q1 7:03 1st and 10 - BELLY OPTION: Things get a bit weird here. The defense gives more a 4-3 look this time after going with a 4-4 type look on the previous play. As a result, the MLB (BB’s blocking responsibility) takes so long to get there that Quaide just blocks the option man instead. With no read key, Johnson just tucks it, as he should.
Q1 6:27 2nd and 4 - COUNTER OPTION: The defense does a good job of stringing out this play, and the blocking breaks down. With 2 defenders out near the pitch man, Johnson makes the safe decision and cuts upfield where a hole formed. Correct decision.
Q1 4:01 2nd and 13 - BELLY OPTION: A blocking breakdown caused this to be a busted play. While it might be tempting for Johnson to pitch here, the read key was all over the pitch. Eating it was the mature, veteran decision.
Q2 3:19 3rd and 11 - BELLY OPTION: This play showcases a situation where Johnson could have done a better job on the option. The option man attacks him, but he charges him too much and pitches too late, leading to a fumble that rolls out of bounds
Q4 12:17 2nd and 1 - COUNTER SPEED OPTION: This play has been a bit of a rarity in recent years, so seeing it was pretty interesting. The blocking is busted in so many ways, however, that I spent a considerable amount of time double checking that I had the blocking assignments correct in my head. The DT is turned loose and impedes the pulling guard from getting to the play side DE. Strangely, the AB blocks what should have been the option man on this plan, but Ted Roof played the safety so deep(shocker) that the AB’s assignment wasn’t even on screen. Upon a second look, however, I think the AB would have blocked the MLB, but he blitzed, which set off the whole chain of incorrect blocking assignments. Despite all this, Johnson makes a veteran-like play to make something out of nothing. He charges all the unblocked defenders to draw them to him, and pitches to Quaide just in time to make a great play.
Johnson could have done better through the air in the spring game, and the interception over the middle was particularly ugly. He was able to float a beautiful pass to Xavier Gantt later in the game, however, with a pass rusher bearing down on him. He also called a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. Johnson has showed the mental toughness required of the position.
Johnson didn’t have a perfect spring game, but it was the best performance by a Georgia Tech QB on the night. Given an OL comprised of mostly walk-ons against a DL that included Brandon Adams and Anree Saint-Amour, Johnson led the Gold team to victory.