The Arkansas running back went through Tuesday's practice on a limited basis after missing the first two games with a hamstring problem. Special teams coach John L. Smith welcomed him back and noted his presence in the interview room after the workout and took a jab at the short running back.
"How did Dennis look?" Smith said. "Short and squatty. There he is over there. See for yourself."
Actually, Smith said Johnson looked good in the workout. He commented on the energy Johnson always brings to a practice. But it may be awhile before Johnson joins Marquel Wade on kickoff returns.
"We'll see how it goes," Smith said. "That was the plan, to have Dennis back there with Marquel. That's what we had in mind coming into the season. That's a nice duo."
Joe Adams welcomed Johnson back at practice with a jab, too.
"Dennis had a smile on his face, just like always," Adams said. "But I told him I was getting his snaps at running back and wanted to run over some people. I told him I was developing some power running to be like him. He didn't think I much looked like him in the game."
Offensive guard Grant Cook said, "Dennis looked like the old DJ out there. He gives us a burst. He knows how to play against good teams and we know what we can expect from him. He looked very good today."
Wade has been a big find in both punt and kickoff returns. He's made key blocks for Joe Adams in the punt return game in the opener, then took a kickoff return to the house last week against New Mexico in week two.
"When we brought Marquel in last year, we thought he would be like that," Smith said. "So we are not surprised with what he's done.
"On the long punt return by Joe Adams, Marquel made three blocks on one play. He had a block to give Joe some room to get started, had a block on his cutback and then led him into the end. We pointed that out to our players on tape. We told them if we could get that kind of effort from the entire team, we could do great things."
Smith said Wade told him early in the New Mexico game that he was going to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
"He did come up to me and say, 'Coach, I'm going to get you one,' and he did," Smith said.
Wade said he wants to be the mirror image of Adams.
"I feel like I do," Wade said of Adams' elusiveness. "I think there are some things that I am better at and there are some things that he is better at. I am going to work on the stuff I can get better at."
How did the TD go?
"I was following the lead blocker Keonte (Minor) and I saw the crease and I just broke it outside and went down the sideline," Wade said.
How did that feel?
""It was the best feeling of my life," Wade said. "I have been waiting on this for a year. Now I've got a chance to do it, I have got to keep doing what I am doing."
What did Wade tell Coach Smith afterwards?
"I told him I told you I was going to get you one," Wade said.
What can Wade do the rest of the year on special teams?
"Give us touchdowns," Wade said.
There was little chance to return punts in week two. New Mexico's punter aimed for the out of bounds line.
"That's going to happen," Smith said. "We want to make people fear us on returns."
All was not perfect in special teams.
"We didn't get much opportunity to cover punts in the first two games, but we can do better there," he said. "We are not pleased there. In kickoff coverage, we are not where we need to be. We need to fly down the field with more abandon."
Smith laughed when a reporter summarized that he might get more time as special teams under Petrino than he gave assistants as head coach.
"No comment," Smith said. "Maybe he does allow me more time. That's fine. He does tell me to 'go, go, go' when it's time to work on special teams. He does help on special teams at practice. He makes sure we have enough time and he is involved."
The Hogs have missed a couple of field goals. However, Smith didn't sound like he was down on sophomore specialist Zack Hocker.
"He had a phenomenal year as a freshman," Smith said. "When you have a season like that, some people see a miss and they want to say, 'What's wrong?' Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just leave him alone. He's fine."
Smith is pleased with the operation in the field goals and extra points.
"The snaps have been faster," he said "Our holds have been good. One or two were dropped, but the hold was down plenty fast enough. We are faster in our snaps on both field goals and punts. Very fast."