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USF Football RB D’Ernest Johnson, CB Deatrick Nichols Impress at 93rd Annual East-West Shrine Game

The two Bulls played well in front of dozens of NFL scouts.

Nathan Bond/The Daily Stampede

USF football running back D’Ernest Johnson and cornerback Deatrick Nichols played well today at Tropicana Field during the 93rd Annual East-West Shrine Game to help their cause heading into the 2018 NFL Draft.

D’Ernest Johnson

The do-it-all running back from Immokalee did a bit of everything for the East team, rushing for 31 yards on six carries, one catch (!!!) for 12 yards and returning the opening kickoff 25 yards and returning a punt for five yards. Johnson’s 16-yard rush was the longest rush by either team all day.

“I think I did a great job preparing this week and just showcasing my ability,” Johnson said.

Johnson caught 54 passes in 2015 and 2016 combined, but that number dropped to just 11 in the 2017 under first-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. He did rush for a career-high 796 yards in the power run system.

“It was kinda frustrating, you know,” Johnson said. “We had a new coaching staff come in and I had to buy in their running scheme and offensive scheme. It was kinda frustrating a little bit. I wish I could’ve gotten more catches out of the backfield but it is what it is... I think we could’ve taken another step forward [as an offense] if we were given the opportunity to get the ball out of the backfield.”

Johnson said there was a lot of “power runs” mixed in with reads on those dreaded #HBDives after the big chunk plays.

“I mean it was a lot of halfback dives,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “But, there were a lot of reads.”

Johnson said he’s spoken with the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and Cleveland Browns, among others.

Deatrick Nichols

The corner from the 305 wasn’t targeted in pass defense all day and showed great run support as the nickel corner.

He split his time between RCB and nickel all day and recorded four tackles and a pass breakup. The pass breakup should have been an interception, but he couldn’t bring the ball in.

“That’s the biggest part of the NFL. You have to tackle. No matter where you’re at on the field, you have to tackle. I hope I showcased that today,” Nichols said.

Nichols matched up with Houston WR Steven Dunbar (76 catches, 1,070 yards, three TD) and South Dakota State WR Jake Wieneke (65 catches, 965 yards, 16 TD) on the outside. He faced Oklahoma WR Jeff Badet (26 catches, 400 yards, three TD) and Mississippi State WR Jordan Thomas (22 catches, 263 yards, three TD) as the nickel.

“I did well in my coverage, but that’s part of the game. Sometimes they’re not gonna throw at you. You just have to stay ready” Nichols said.

Senat Sits Out

Senat had an amazing week of practice, and it came as a shock to many scouts that he wasn’t going to play. He has skyrocketed up a lot of NFL teams’ boards, with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns as the most interested. One scout told me, “He showed out this week. I was looking forward to seeing him.”

Senat will get his shot to further impress scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine next month.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers missed the game after a family member died earlier this week.

Year-by-year list:

  • 2018- Flowers, Johnson, Nichols, Senat
  • 2017- WR Rodney Adams didn’t play because the “carpet” at the Birmingham Bowl messed up his ankle.
  • 2016- S Jamie Byrd
  • 2015- WR Andre Davis, K Marvin Kloss
  • 2014- LB Dede Lattimore
  • 2013- CB Kayvon Webster, LB Sam Barrington
  • 2012- S Jerrell Young, OL Jeremiah Warren
  • 2011- DT Terrell McClain
  • 2010- LB Kion Wilson
  • 2009- WR Taurus Johnson
  • 2008- CB Trae Williams