"As a player, I'll tell you what: he's a go-to guy. He's a leader. We're going to put a lot on his shoulders this year and he's a kid that looks forward to that. He's that special player that every coach wishes he had on his roster. He can be a speed back and make people miss, or he can be a downhill runner. When we need him to grind out a yard, he can run over someone."
In 2012, Gio Bernard rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns, and caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five scores. Dombroski believes Johnson could have similar success within UNC's offense.
"Having seen [Johnson] play and the type of offense North Carolina runs, I think he'll do well in it – I think he's the perfect fit," Dombroski said.
"He's a kid that's going to come up and want to compete right off the bat. D'Ernest is going to give North Carolina all that he has from the get-go."
According to Dombroski, Johnson was also heavily pursued by Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Johnson selected UNC despite the lack of a campus visit.
"He's been in contact with Coach [Dan] Disch, he's done his research, [and] he's looked at everything having seen North Carolina play on TV," Dombroski said. "D'Ernest wants to go somewhere where he could come in and compete right away and he feels that that opportunity arises at North Carolina. It's in the ACC, it's a national power in football, and the offense is a great fit for him. We'll get him up there this summer to see the campus and I know he'll fall in love with Chapel Hill."
What can't be overstated is the relationship Johnson established with the UNC coaching staff.
"Coach Disch was very honest and up-front," Dombroski said. "He didn't make any empty promises. He didn't tell him that he'd come in and start right away. He said, ‘Listen, if you come to North Carolina and you compete, we're going to put the best 11 on the field.' The approach Disch took was, ‘Hey, we'll give you the opportunity, you have to earn it.'
"Other schools that were recruiting him said, ‘Hey, you're going to be a star, you're going to do this, you're going to do that.' At this day and age, kids aren't stupid. They know that nothing good is going to be given to them."
In addition to what Johnson has heard from friends Tajze Battle, who committed to UNC last summer, and T.J. Jiles and Malik Simmons, sophomore defensive backs at UNC, Dombroski has shared his Chapel Hill experiences. Dombroski coached six years in North Carolina – he was an assistant coach for two seasons at Fayetteville (N.C.) Britt and the head coach of Barco (N.C.) Currituck County for four.
"I know [Johnson] will love it," Dombroski said.