September 25, 2008

Coaches and Players Talk Up Cody Johnson

Texas players and coaches are intrigued by redshirt freshman running back Cody Johnson of Waller and also entertained by him.

"Big Cody, he's a jokester man," said offensive lineman Cedric Dockery. "He's always got a smile on his face, trying to put one on your face. It's hard not to like the guy."

Johnson (5-11, 256), who led Texas with 15 carries against Rice (for 57 yards and a TD), hasn't yet been made available for interviews. But coaches and teammates described a guy this week who loves the game and takes it seriously.

"You like his ability to move the chains," Mack Brown said. "He's usually going to get you 4 yards because he's 250 pounds and runs good behind his pads. But I also like that he bounced out on a play for 17 yards."

Could Johnson be more of an every-down back?

"We're seeing signs," Brown said. "That's why we kept him in. He's used to the goal-line stuff. We want to see him out in the field. We were going to put him in with John Chiles and let those two work together, but after the fumble (by Chiles) the game stayed closer than we would have liked."

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the reason starting tailback Vondrell McGee didn't play in the second half against Rice (after rushing eight times for 28 yards) was because "Cody got hot."

"He ran with good vision," Davis said. "The counter he bounced outside down the far boundary was well-blocked, but counter plays by nature are usually ugly plays.

"There's a lot going on and you're pulling a guard and a tackle. But he was patient and let the blocking form in front of him.

Johnson needs a look against Arkansas early in the game."So he's running with good vision and with good pad level. Any time you get a guy that size running downhill, he's going to pick up a couple extra yards because of good pad level.

Added Davis, "He's taking care of the football. One of the things we were concerned about in camp was him being careless with the ball. But at this point, he's very cognizant of taking care of the ball.

"He catches the ball well. He's not a guy we'd probably split out in our empty set but he catches the ball well. Those are the things we saw and liked when we looked at it on Sunday."

Johnson took his duties on scout team seriously last season, according to defensive tackle Aaron Lewis. He loved the contact of inside drill.

"He's big. He hits hard," Lewis said. "But he smiles afterward, and it's fun. He's hyperenergetic and loves football. Always has a smile on his face and is fun to hang out with."

Linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said linebackers have to think twice about whether to go low to bring Johnson down because he's such a load.

"You got to be ready when Cody has the ball," Muckelroy said. "He's a downhill player. I told him as a freshman on scout team last year, 'I can't wait to see you on the field because I think you're going to be a really good player.'"

Left tackle Adam Ulatoski said he likes Johnson because he has an "offensive lineman mentality."

"He's a big guy, he's blue collar, and runs hard," Ulatoski said. "We like seeing him bowl people over. We can appreciate that as linemen."

Running back Chris Ogbonnaya said Johnson's energy is contagious.

"He's very passionate on the field," Ogbonnaya said. "When he makes plays, the way he shows his happiness is very evident on the field - whether it's chest-bumping or beating his chest.

"He brings that fire to the game and I love it. I feed off of it. He's a young player. But he's doing a good job."

MY TAKE: If Fozzy Whittaker isn't ready to go, then Johnson should get a good look. His yards-per-carry average (4.1) may be less than Vondrell McGee's (4.2), but some of that is because of his goal-line chores. Against Rice, Cody averaged 4.5 ypc and McGee 3.5. Mack Brown said part of that was because McGee helped soften up the defense for Johnson in the second half. If that's the case, let's see Johnson in the first half this week - if Whittaker's not ready to go. If Whittaker is ready, bring on the Foz.

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