Johnson Has Impressed Coker

Running back Andrew Johnson has impressed head coach Larry Coker this spring. Johnson entered the spring fourth on the depth chart at tailback, but is putting together a solid spring to help him earn carries in 2006.

Andrew Johnson, 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, has been the player Coker has talked about the most this spring.

After the sixth practice on Wednesday, Johnson talked about his thoughts on his performance thus far.

"I feel a lot more comfortable out here," Johnson said. "I just feel like I can do what I am capable of. I don't feel restricted right now and I am just excited to be back out here."

He attributes his success on the practice field to his knowledge of the offense, which was similar to what he was in at high school.

The energy of the offense has been the talk of the spring. From being led by walk-on fullback Mark Lisante (Jacksonville, Fla.) during their pre-stretch dance to guys working hard throughout practice making big plays.

One of the biggest reasons is new offensive coordinator Rich Olson, who returns to Coral Gables after 12 years in the NFL. Olson was the offensive coordinator at UM in 1994.

Olson also serves as the running backs coach.

"He has an NFL mentality and he is teaching us things that the NFL basically looks for," said Johnson. "He is teaching us a lot of new things and a lot of things have switched from last year--like 80 percent of the things whether it is technique or anything. Obviously he knows what he is doing, he was in the NFL."

Olson is busy with his evaluations of the running backs. Johnson along with Charlie Jones and Derron Thomas are all close friends who signed with UM in 2004.

"We are tight," said Johnson. "We are having fun out here. We have fun on the field like we have fun off the field. We are always together and we have a chemistry between each other. It's not like, 'I'm going against him so I hate him'. It is nothing like that. We are like brothers."

In addition to having playmakers on offense, a key to a good offense is being strong up front. Miami will be replacing four starters on the offensive line this season and Johnson likes what he sees from the new group of: LT Reggie Youngblood, LG Andrew Bain, C Anthony Wollschlager (returning starter), RG Derrick Morse, and RT Tyrone Byrd.

"I think the offensive line is blocking great," said Johnson. "I know I read all of the time that the line is this and the line is that, but the line is doing great. We are protecting and run blocking. For it being in the spring and replacing four new starters, the line is doing real good right now."

"If they are doing this good now, then there's no telling where they will be in six months from now." Johnson added.

Last season Johnson was expected to redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in December 2004. However, on October 8 against Duke he made his first appearance of the season consequently lifting his redshirt.

He finished the season with 97 yards on 14 carries including a 46-yard on his first carry of the season.

Many people thought he should have received more carrries and couldn't understand why his redshirt was lifted and receiving less than two carries per game after his redshirt was lifted.

"The hardest thing about last year was not playing," said Johnson. "Every player wants to play. Not playing was a little frustrating and I was a little confused, but that is in the past so now I can only come out here, work hard and try to get better for the season."

Last year he admitted that his knee wasn't 100 percent, but this spring it feels great and he hasn't had any setbacks.

The Hurricanes return to practice on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., but is closed to the public.

Christopher Stock is a Senior Editor with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@canestime.com


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