#32 RB D'Ernest Johnson
Sophomore, 5'10", 207 lbs.
Stats in 2014: Johnson had a fine true freshman season, providing the occasional thunder to Marlon Mack's lightning and running for 150 yards on 46 carries (3.3 ypc) along with catching eight passes for 107 yards and a score. He also returned eight kickoffs for 157 yards.
Spot on Fall Depth Chart: Third-string behind Mack and Darius Tice, but there's some significance to the fact that he's listed at all-- no other position on the depth chart goes three deep. Tice had a really nice spring and Johnson was sidelined with an injury for the end of it, so the battle for second-string will likely continue in fall camp when D'Ernest is back at full strength. Johnson's also listed as the starting kick returner, so he'll get some degree of playing time no matter what.
How He Came to USF: From Immokalee High School, where he was a big-time prospect, chalking up over 1,300 all-purpose yards in his senior season. He also punted 27 times for 983 yards! Talk about a renaissance man. I fully expect USF to find a way to have Johnson punt this season.
Anyway, Johnson originally committed to UNC early in the recruiting process before decommitting and narrowing his options to USF and Louisville. He picked the Bulls a few weeks before Signing Day over an impressive list of offers including UNC and Louisville (duh), as well as Georgia, Ole Miss, Minnesota and Wake Forest.
Recruiting Rankings: Rivals absolutely loved Johnson, giving him four stars and slotting him 185th in the elite Rivals 200 and 18th among running backs. 247 was a bit more reserved, giving him three stars and putting him 59th among running backs.
Projected Playing Time: This is an interesting one. There are only so many carries to go around, and with Mack, Tice and Johnson all in the same backfield (not to mention Kennard Swanson and Quinton Flowers, if he wins the starting job), someone's gonna see their touches get cut a little bit. That could very well be Mack-- why put a boatload of carries on his body if you have capable backups?-- but it's more likely the loser of the Tice-Johnson battle. As of now, D'Ernest has some ground to make up, but no matter what happens he's too talented to keep off the field. Even if he's not getting a ton of carries, he'll still make an impact in the return game.
Highlights: D'Ernest earned the nickname "Clutch" last season for his tendency to make big plays in crunch time. He had huge catches against both Tulsa and SMU, and the Bulls probably wouldn't have won either game without him.
Here's his tremendous one-handed catch on third down late in the Tulsa game.
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If you'd like to experience vomiting everywhere all over again, here are highlights of the Bulls' ridiculous final drive against SMU, where D'Ernest made several huge plays on third and fourth down to keep the Bulls alive.
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Don't forget that he scored the touchdown that made it 13-7 and gave USF a chance to win the game in the first place.
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And here he is doing some things that running backs should not be able to do in high school.
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