Running primarily with the first team, Johnson connected on the only big passing play of the afternoon, a 50-yard touchdown strike to Willie White, who had gotten behind Jalen Young down the middle of the field.
“Did you see that post he ran today?” Johnson said. “It was beautiful.”
Johnson missed all but the first game last season while recovering from surgery to remove blood clots in his arm. Wright led the Owls in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman but had been held out of contact all spring until Saturday.
At the beginning of spring Johnson struggled with accuracy and velocity, but both aspects of his passing game are improving as spring progresses.
“He definitely had a better week this week than last,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s good to see him improving.”
Johnson did most of his damage with his legs on Saturday, but nearly had a second long hook-up with Wright. Officials ruled that the speedy sophomore lost control of the ball as two defenders attempted to pry it away from him while he went to the ground in the end zone.
“Touch is coming back,” Johnson said. “Confidence is there. Definitely getting better with my accuracy and arm strength.”
Johnson is battling redshirt freshman Chris Robison for the starting quarterback spot. Robison, a transfer from Oklahoma who ran FAU’s scout team last season, didn’t fare as well on Saturday.
Working primarily with the second team, injuries to the wide receiver corps and a lack of depth along the offensive line hampered Robison’s ability to consistently move the offense.
“Chris made some plays moving out of the pocket,” Kiffin said.
FAU’s defensive line and linebackers constantly harassed both Johnson and Robison in the backfield. Second team linebacker Khantrell Burden turned in the biggest defensive play of the afternoon, scooping up a botched exchange between Robison and wide receiver John Mitchell ruled a fumble rather than an interception and racing to the end zone.
“Defense probably dominated for the most part, which a lot of times when you don’t tackle that happens because you are not getting missed tackles, you are not falling forward on spots and stuff,” Kiffin said.
SpringFling: Saturday’s Practice Report
Making Plays: The defensive front six loaded up on sacks, with linebackers Rashad Smith, Hosea Barnwell, Jacob Douglas, Khantrell Burden; and defensive linemen Hunter Snyder and Leighton McCarthy among those getting to the quarterback at least once. …The Owls are thin at running back this spring, but D’Anfernee McGriff did provide a spark with a long touchdown run around the left side. …Linebacker Akileis Leroy made a strong stick on running back Daniel Leconte in the hole on a fourth and short.
Tracking the Depth Chart: With cornerback Shelton Lewis momentarily sidelined, James Pierre moved up to the first team and immediately broke up a Robison pass intended for Brandon Robinson. Pierre played safety last season as a true freshman. Kiffin sees NFL potential in Pierre. …With Jovon Durante, DeAndre McNeal and Pico Harrison among the wide receivers held out of the scrimmage, walk-ons Dante Cousart and Robinson are seeing plenty of opportunities. …For the second consecutive practice, walk-on Nick Webber played guard with the first team offense in the spot previously occupied by William Tuihalamaka, who dropped to second team. …Kiffin said oft-injured Richard Williams, a candidate to start at center for the Owls, has elected to no longer play football. Williams has not participated in a practice all spring.
Newcomer Watch: Robert Hawkins, Jared Nourse, Jake Jones and Ean Biancardi all worked with the second team offensive line. All are redshirt sophomores or younger.
QB Battle: Johnson is a far more elusive runner than Robison, but Robison showed on Saturday that he, too, is capable of making plays with his feet.
Instant Message: “Protection struggled today. There’s some really good pass rushers. We’ve got some pretty elite pass rushers for this level.” – Kiffin