Given the choice, would he prefer to be the starter rather than come off the bench?
“Wouldn’t everybody?” Johnson said.
Preferences are one thing. Getting the job is something completely different.
Even after Johnson’s breakthrough performance in Saturday’s Shula Bowl where he replaced starter Chris Robison and energized the FAU offense, leading the Owls to 42 of their 49 points in a blowout of FIU, it’s still difficult to say whether he’s passed Robison on the depth chart.
One day after the Shula Bowl victory, coach Lane Kiffin remained non-committal regarding the starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky, saying he could envision a scenario where both play.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Johnson said the Owls were employing “pretty much the same rotation” at quarterback that they used last week.
Johnson rushed for 50 yards on seven carries against FIU. He also tossed the first two touchdown passes of his career – although the first, a 28-yard back-shoulder throw to Jovon Durante in the back of the end zone, proved significantly more impressive that the the jet sweep toss he made to Durante which traveled mere feet while airborne.
Using his feet, Johnson has impressed all season. With his first touchdown pass, thrown both accurately and with touch, Johnson showed skill he hadn’t showcased all season – in part because he hadn’t been asked to throw.
“That’s something a lot of people seem to have not really paid attention, too,” Johnson said.
Perhaps even more important than Johnson’s passing performance – he completed four of six passes, but the first touchdown to Durante was the only completion to travel a significant distance – was that, with Johnson at the helm, the FAU offense appeared to pick up the pace, playing consistently uptempo for the first time since Jason Driskel was behind center.
Johnson brought his own swagger to the field.
“It was a calm confidence that he knew what he was doing and he was ready to go,” left tackle Reggie Bain said.
A former Florida St. signee, Johnson transferred to FAU from East Mississippi CC in December of 2016 but missed nearly all of 2017 after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his right arm.
Johnson says he hasn’t felt any lasting effects this season from the surgery and the Owls haven’t shown any hesitancy to have the redshirt junior absorb a hit in game action.
That’s fine with Johnson.
“You’re never really in the game until you take a hit, or take a shot,” Johnson said. “You need something to get your adrenaline going, you’re blood flowing.”