"I'm embracing it pretty well," Daje Johnson said. "I'm taking the new role day by day and getting what they give me. I know they've given me a lot of plays to work on so I'm just trying to give them my all every practice."
Pretty well might be an understatement, judging by the amount of time his teammates and coaches have spent gushing about Johnson's play.
"Daje Johnson has had a great camp," said Texas coach Mack Brown, Monday. "We are worried about the depth at wide receiver with the offense we're running and the number of plays we hope to get going into this weekend."
And that could lead to more snaps, and ultimately more touches for the sophomore speedster. That's something that excites Texas fans, who grew frustrated watching blazers like D.J. Monroe stuck in neutral without the ball in Monroe's hands.
But Johnson has succeeded where Monroe could not, in terms of finding a permanent spot on the football field. While Monroe lacked the bulk to be an every down running back, the physicality to be a third-down back and pick up blitzers and the hands to be an every down receiver, Johnson has spent the time making himself into the kind of wideout the Longhorns can play in every situation. He's had a transitional period from running back, like Monroe, but has been able to make an impact at receiver.
"Running back was mainly from high school so I already had the gist of that," Johnson said. "I'll just have to get better at wide receiver. Coach [Darrell] Wyatt has helped me out with that a lot. I listen to what he says every practice and try to get better on the go."
Johnson also credits fellow receiver Mike Davis with putting in the effort to help him improve.
"He's helped me with my footwork, on routes, off-press – he's taught me a whole bunch of stuff," Johnson said.
That effort wasn't always there from Johnson in his first year on campus, as playing college football often takes somewhat of an adjustment. But Johnson said he's matured now, and understands the importance of playing, and practicing, with maximum effort.
When I get tired I know that I can't let my team down and I keep pushing through," Johnson said.
That the lightbulb flipped on for Johnson is great news for a Texas team that has to replace two of its primary speed players from a year ago in Monroe and Marquise Goodwin. That leaves a number of jet sweeps and space plays available for Johnson, if he's able to stay on the field.
"That depends on fatigue," Johnson said. "I'm going to get as many plays as I can handle. If I get tired, they're going to take me out. Fatigue will decide how long I stay in."
Injuries in the receiving corps, along with the suspension of Kendall Sanders, have pushed Johnson to the top of the depth chart for New Mexico State. But with Texas largely utilizing three-wide sets and the Longhorns having three good-looking wideouts in Sanders, Davis and Jaxon Shipley to trot out after this week, Will Johnson be able to hold down his starting role?
"I'll be a big contributor but I won't say starter," Johnson said. "I can't tell the future but one of my goals is be a big contributor to the team and help out as much as I can."
Whether as a permanent starter or key reserve in the rotation, a matured Johnson should be able to help significantly.