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FAU QB Johnson doesn't shy away from contact

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mobile quarterbacks have become the rule instead of the exception, but they are a little different each week. And so is the case with Florida Atlantic's Jaquez Johnson.

The best comparison you could draw with another QB is Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. Johnson is not as big as Thomas, but he is 6-foot-1, 225 pounds and doesn't mind contact.

The rushing numbers show it: He is second on the team in rushing (263 net vs. Jonathan Wallace's 418) and carries (79 vs. Wallace's 82). His career game last week in a 37-23 win at Alabama-Birmingham perked up the Owls' offense, which was sadly lacking in a 3-9 season a year ago.

With that in mind, coach Carl Pelini recruited Johnson out of East Mississippi Community College, and Johnson won the starting spot.

In the UAB game, Johnson threw for 299 yards on 23-of-36 passing with two touchdowns, a two-point conversion and no interceptions. That added to his 105 yards rushing, much of it on a 54-yard burst that helped seal the victory.

"He's a big tailback playing quarterback," said Chuck Heater, MU's defensive coordinator. "Really thick, kind of runs through tackles. They carry him 15 or 20 times a game, that's a lot of quarterback running game. Schematically, they have things they do that make it difficult, in terms of outnumbering you."  

The rushing aspect is getting considerable emphasis by the Thundering Herd, which curtailed the perimeter rushing game of Texas-San Antonio's Eric Soza last week. In that game, the catch-phrase was "holding the edge," this week it is "holding on for more tacklers."

But Pelini could stand to see his QB run up the middle a little less and hand off to Wallace a little more.

"It certainly helps you. It gives you an extra blocker up the middle on the off-tackle plays," Pelini said. "That is a little different for a defensive coordinator to face, but quite frankly you can't do too much of that. That's something he did a whole lot of in the Middle Tennessee State game, and that's one reason we didn't have him against Rice."

Other FAU players of note:

  • Wallace: The 6-1, 210-pound senior rushed for 117 yards on 17 carries against UAB, and now averages 5.1 yards per carry.
  • William Dukes: The junior isn't the team's leading receiver, but he's the most dangerous. He has 20 catches for 267 yards and four touchdowns, including a 58-yarder against Rice. At 6-4, 190, he's tall and physical.
  • D'Joun Smith: This junior cornerback has three interceptions, including the one he returned 75 yards for a touchdown against South Florida. One guess: the Herd's Rakeem Cato will throw at the other cornerback, as Keith Reaser is out for the season.
  • Defensive line: Led by senior right end Cory Henry and sophomore right tackle Brandin Bryant (nine sacks combined), they are the smallest FBS front the Herd has faced. But there's a method there.
  • "They're really playing four defensive ends," said Bill Legg, MU's offensive coordinator. "They're an aggressive, attacking group up front and to match that, they play a number of variations of man coverage."

  • Cre'von LeBlanc: This sophomore has played as a nickel and dime back, and he and senior Christian Milstead will be part of the solution in replacing Reaser.
  • Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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