#2 RB D’Ernest Johnson
Junior, 5’10”, 208 lbs.
That’s Pronounced... DEE-er-nest. Sound out the entire letter D.
2015 Stats: Only one player recorded rushing yards, receiving yards, kick return yards, and punt return yards for USF last season. It was D’Ernest Johnson. He had 71 carries for 307 yards, 26 catches for 256 yards, 21 kickoff returns for 563 yards, and a 25-yard punt return. He finished with 1,251 all-purpose yards, behind only Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams, and scored five touchdowns. If that wasn’t enough, he was also 2-for-2 for 63 yards and two touchdowns as a passer.
Willie Taggart always tells his players to #DoSomething if they want one of the coveted single-digit uniform numbers. In Johnson’s case, he earned the right to wear his old high school number by doing everything.
Position on Depth Chart: Johnson is a backup running back as well as USF’s primary kick and punt returner on the current depth chart.
Watch List Watch: Johnson is on the preseason watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, an honor given to college football’s most versatile player.
How He Came To USF: D’Ernest is another Immokalee High School product. As multitalented as he is for USF, he was even more so for the Indians: running and catching the ball, returning kicks, playing linebacker for a time, and even punting his senior year. He racked up 2,859 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns in his last two years of high school, plus 51 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and an 80-yard touchdown pass. Immokalee reached the Class 5A state title game in 2012 and Johnson was named an all-state honorable mention player.
Johnson also had an incredible 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown his senior year. Have you seen this play? You need to see this play.
D’Ernest’s college recruitment came down to the wire, but he chose USF in February 2014 over offers from Louisville, Georgia, Ole Miss, and West Virginia, among others.
Recruiting Rankings: Johnson was a four-star prospect on Rivals, a high three-star prospect on ESPN, and a three-star on 247 and Scout.
Projected Playing Time: All three of USF’s running backs have a defined role, making their depth chart positions irrelevant. D’Ernest is mainly the pass-catching, third-down running back. Johnson actually had the second-most catches and receiving yards on the team last year, becoming a very handy security blanket for Quinton Flowers. He will also continue returning kicks alongside Rodney Adams, and he surprisingly took the punt return job away from Tajee Fullwood. The coaches did a great job finding ways to get the ball in D’Ernest’s hands last year. That trend should continue this year.
Power Ranking: Top five most versatile players in USF football history:
- Brian Fisher
- D’Ernest Johnson
- DeAndrew Rubin
- Sampson Genus
- Evan Landi, Lindsey Lamar (tie)