Inside the Class of '07: Cody Johnson

The 10th in a daily series of interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '07: running back Cody Johnson.

Cody Johnson

Running Back
Waller HS
5-11/230/4.40
National Rank at FB: 2
Overall State Rank: 20
Star Rating: « « « «

An Inside Texas conversation with Waller head coach Jim Phillips on Cody Johnson:

IT: What are Cody’s strengths as a football player that made him such a desirable prospect for Texas?

Phillips: No. 1 thing is his size and speed. This fall he weighed around 240 and ran around a 4.5-4.6, but thing I remember is when he went to the University of Houston camp, he weighed 228 or 230 and ran a 4.4. He's got great speed and he's got great size.

IT: I read that he won a Ford Tough award last season with some amazing numbers...

Phillips: He won a Ford Tough award after the Nederland game. He had 360 or 370 yards rushing and five touchdowns... He had a great game.

IT: Putting up those numbers is an amazing feat. What makes him capable of doing that?

Phillips: I think our offense was suitable to him. The last three years we've averaged over 400 yards of offense. We run an option-type offense and we're tailback-quarterback oriented. He had 1,500 yards his junior year and 1,700 this year in nine games. He only had nine games last so with those two games he probably could have gone close to 2,000 each year. The way we played our offense was suitable for him. We gave him the ball quite a bit on the inside and outside, we spread you out and give him seams to run in.

IT: Cody looks to have the size of a fullback but has the ability to be a tailback. How do you project him at the next level and what position do you believe suits him best?

Phillips: He could play fullback. There's no doubt in my mind he could play fullback, but we didn't ask him to block a whole lot here, so that's the No. 1 things he's going to have to do is improve his blocking. He was carrying the ball so he didn't have to block. To play fullback at the next level he's going to have to improve his blocking, which he can do. He can block, we just didn't make him do it here. Again, it goes back to his physical ability. He's got great strength on the inside and he's got great speed on the outside. The thing that Cody concentrates on is he gets down behind his pads as good as anybody there is. He's got great hips, so he can do some stuff there.

IT: Did he get yards for you guys both in the middle and on the outside?

Phillips: Yeah, he ran a lot of inside leads for us and he ran a lot of sweeps and we ran a lot of lead option with him. We threw the ball to him, so he's got hands. He can catch it. We tried to get the ball to him quite a bit.

IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Cody?

Phillips: That he reminded them of Ricky Williams. And he does have some of Ricky Williams' running style and you can see it when he runs.

IT: Did the Texas coaches say they want to give him a look at both spots?

Phillips: From the word get-go. They never lied about that at all.

IT: How does Cody feel about that?

Phillips: He better play both of them because if he wants to go to the next level, he better keep both doors open, that's what I told him. 'Don't think of yourself as a tailback, don't think of yourself as a fullback. Just play where you've got a chance if you want to play on Sundays, do what you've gotta do.'

IT: You mentioned playing on Sundays, based on ability and size...

Phillips: He's got the ability if continues to improve everyday.

IT: Did he play both ways for you guys?

Phillips: He could have. This year, when we got in trouble on defense, we'd put him in. We tried not to do it, but... he made first or second-team all district as a linebacker sophomore year because we had a heckuva tailback that year, and after that he played tailback his junior and senior year.

IT: Did you guys run an offense with a fullback?

Phillips: Yeah.

IT: Did Cody ever play at fullback for you?

Phillips: We stuck him at fullback some. Like I said, we run the option, and we stuck him at fullback sometimes to run the middle line and sometime we stuck him in there and ran the dive option with him.

IT: So he has a little bit of experience playing fullback?

Phillips: Oh yeah, and he played a little bit of fullback his junior year. Cody can pick it up, he could for us.

IT: What are the areas of Cody’s game that he needs to improve upon to be successful in college

Phillips: No. 1 is get his shoulder healthy (see the Feb. 16 Scoop for more info on Johnson's injury). He's going to have to get that shoulder where he can take a shot on it. Second thing is his weight. [Laughing] He likes to eat. Momma surely took care of him. He's lost some weight now. I told the (Texas) coaches he needs to play around 230-235. That's when he's the best.

IT: For a guy that big that likes to eat, it's pretty amazing that he's got the speed that he does...

Phillips: Shoot, he can run. He had a brother that played for me that weighed around 300 pounds and was quick as a cat. Cody can run. What hurts Cody sometimes is he has to run every day. The more he runs, the faster he gets. When he's running track, he gets fast. When he's not running track, he loses some.

IT: With his shoulder injury, I imagine he's limited in what he can do right now...

Phillips: He can't do much at all right now. He's doing therapy right now. He's got some guy doing therapy with him over in Tomball but I think here in about another three weeks they're going to turn him loose. He's already hollering about wanting to run track but I don't know if they're going to let him run track or not. He was asked to play in that game between Texas and Louisiana, the Bayou Bowl, but I'm not even going to nominate him for the Texas All-Star game because he doesn't need to play in it just because of his shoulder.

IT: You said he likes to eat. Does he like to work out?

Phillips: Yeah, he likes to lift weights. He's like any other kid with running, you've gotta make him run, but he likes that weight room.

IT: In track, what does he participate in?

Phillips: He runs the 100, he runs the 200, he runs the sprint relay and he's a heckuva shot-putter, too. He hasn't thrown a shot put much, but he can throw 46 or 47 feet.

IT: When's he headed to Austin?

Phillips: The day after he graduates, he's going to Texas. I think we graduate June 2, and he's going June 3.

IT: What did Cody mean to your football program?

Phillips: Cody brought notoriety to the team. We've had scouts in here that don't usually come and now they're coming back because they see the type of kids we have, and that's helped us a bunch. We've got a kid this year that Texas is looking at again (see the Feb. 23 Scoop for more on DT Eddie Brown). That's what Cody's meant.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Cody's ability as a football player?

Phillips: Yeah. When he was playing running back his freshman year, I knew then I had a running back. The thing is, I had a kid that was two grades ahead of him that was a heckuva running back, too. Ran a 4.3 and he was 210, he just didn't have the grades. But when (Cody) was a freshman, I knew then watching him on that freshman team that he could be a running back. And sophomore year, he wanted to play running back, but I said, 'No, you're playing linebacker this year. You're time's coming but I'll get you playing time now.' And he ended up being a very good linebacker and (the coaches) sat down talking about tailback and I said, 'We've got a tailback. We're going to move Cody Johnson to tailback. And that's how it's going to be.' The rest of it worked out how it did.

IT: So for a year he settled into the role as linebacker?

Phillips: He was a good linebacker. He wasn't as good as I knew he would be at running back, but he was good for us.

IT: What was it about him that made you know he was going to be great at running back?

Phillips: The way he ran. He ran tough, ran with his shoulders down, good vision and I knew he was going to be a big kid. Good feet. He just had a natural running style to him.

IT: Is he a guy you can see playing early. Texas right now doesn't have many big backs...

Phillips: Cody can do anything he wants to. Cody's a mature kid... and very smart. That's the thing. Cody's got that going for him. Cody understands the game. Cody understands leverages. Once he understands what the system is -- that's another thing, he'd be so far ahead, he'd be teaching our other kids. He's got good football sense.

IT: Do you have a sense of where he developed that football sense, or it just innate?

Phillips: A lot of it is innate. And he's been around it. I've had Cody since he's been in junior high, so he's been around it. His brother played for me, and I can remember Cody as a little kid coming up here, so he's been around it all his life.

IT: Is there anything you'd like to add about Cody that we didn't already cover?

Phillips: Cody's a good kid. Cody's been good to our program. It's been fun having him. He's gotta a lot of upside, a lot of upside. He can play both (tailback and fullback), there's no doubt he can do it. Whether he plays next year depends on how quick he can adjust to the speed (of the game). That's just hard. It takes a while for the mind to get set on the speed and reaction, it takes a while to be around it. Can he do it? Yeah, I think he can do it. He's a tough kid. But those son of a guns up there are for real. They're the best there is in Texas, so he's going to have to be ready to play.

UT Signing Day Bio: An all-state and three-time all-district selection … three year letterman and starter who was a versatile athlete, earning nine letters in three sports … played running back, linebacker and defensive end … was a member of ESPN's top 150 national prospects … rushed 343 times for 3,294 yard and 40 TDs over his final two seasons … averaged 9.6 yards per carry during that span … named second- team all-state by The Associated Press and The Texas Sports Writers Association as a senior … also garnered first-team all-district 18-4A honors … rushed 187 times for 1,743 yards and 21 TDs … averaged 9.3 yards per carry … had a long TD rush of 75 yards … rushed 25 times for 363 yards and five TDs in a 41-38 win over Nederland … named first-team all-district 18-4A as a junior … also named second-team all-area … rushed 156 times for 1,551 yards and 19 TDs … averaged 9.9 yards per carry … had a long TD rush of 84 yards … started at defensive end and linebacker as a sophomore … named a second-team all-district 18-4A performer at linebacker … also lettered in basketball and track and field … was a three-year starter at power forward in basketball … was a three-year letterman in track and field … competed in the 100m, 200m and sprint relays … member of Student Council and PRIDE mentor program in high school … named to "Top Teens of America" … brother, Sidney Johnson, plays defensive tackle at Texas Lutheran University … full name is Colton R. Johnson … born 3/16/1989 in Washington County, Texas.

LAST WEEK:
TRAY ALLEN
SAM ACHO
CURTIS BROWN
RUSSELL CARTER
BRANDON COLLINS

THIS WEEK:
IAN HARRIS
TYRELL HIGGINS
KYLE HIX
MICHAEL HUEY

NEXT UP: DRE JONES

All photos: Will Gallagher/Inside Texas


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