AUSTIN, Texas -- When Texas needed an explosive play last season, true freshman Daje Johnson was usually good for one.
The running back/receiver put together a nice highlight reel in his debut season. Johnson scored a 45-yard touchdown in his first career game. He opened the Baylor game with an 84-yard touchdown run. He took a fly sweep 70 yards at Kansas State.
Texas is hoping he’s ready to take the next step and become the speed demon they’ll need following the graduation of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe. Johnson spent the entire offseason learning to play slot receiver and is ready to have a major role in Major Applewhite’s offense.
We caught up with Johnson to discuss the progress he has made entering his sophomore year and his expectations for 2013.
How did the transition to wide receiver go for you this offseason?
DJ: I’m embracing it pretty well, taking a new role day by day. I know they’ve given me a lot of plays to work on, so I’m just trying to give it my all in every practice.
Was it difficult to master that dual running back/receiver role?
DJ: Running back was mainly from high school, so I already pretty much had the gist of that. Wide receiver, I just had to get better with that. Coach Wyatt helped me out with that a lot. Just listening to what he says every practice and trying to get better.
What’s the challenge of getting adjusted to playing slot receiver?
DJ: The only different part is just getting fatigued because the up-tempo, spread offense puts you down a little bit. You’ll run a go route and you’ve got to come back and run another go route, and you’re getting plays every 15 seconds. It gets tiring.
Do you anticipate you’ll still get to make some plays out of the backfield?
DJ: Right now, they have a small package for me. I’m not really a long-term running back. I’m splitting time more between that and wide receiver. It’s a little bit, but not as much.
It sounds like you’ll be getting the ball a lot more now. How would you define your new role?
DJ: Just getting me all over the field. Punt return, kickoff return, running back, wide receiver. As many ways as I can get the ball.
How much better a player and teammate are you now than one year ago?
DJ: Way, much better. I’ve matured from last year to now. I’m just buying into the offense and buying into the team. I’m just ready to get it going. I just needed to focus more in meetings and during practice, giving 100 percent. When I get tired, it’s knowing that I can’t let my team down and to keep pushing through.
How would you compare yourself to Marquise Goodwin?
DJ: I would compare with Marquise speed-wise. I like to compare myself to Tavon Austin on athletic ability and just a whole bunch of guys like De’Anthony Thomas. They get the ball as much ways as they can out of the backfield, bubble screens, anywhere.
Are you faster than Goodwin?
DJ: I don’t know. I’d have to race him. I can’t say that. I can’t say that I would win. I’d give him a race, though. It would be neck-and-neck.
Do you think you’re going to be a star for Texas this season?
DJ: Uh, a big contributor. I’m not going to say a star yet. I cant tell the future. But that’s one of my goals, to be a big contributor to a team and have a big role, help the team as much as I can.