Santa Ana RB Dartangan Johnson

In the opening weeks of Mission Conference competition last season, Santa Ana running back Dartangan Johnson created a buzz for both himself and the team of first year head coach Geoff Jones. The 6-1, 215-pound freshman running back averaged around 38 carries in the first five games, gaining nearly 800 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns.

But Johnson's charge was cut short by an injury in the sixth contest.

It has now been nearly six months since the injury and Johnson is back to full speed for spring ball and hopeful for a huge sophomore campaign.

"He can run over you, around you, or away from you," said Jones. "With his new look -- the added weight -- he may run more people over. He's also got superb hands." Fans may see less slasher and more sledgehammer in 2004.

When asked to compare his running style to an NFL back, both Jones and Johnson didn't hesitate in saying Eddie George. "But with better speed...," added Jones.

Johnson came to Santa Ana from nearby Newport Harbor High School where he ended up a non-qualifier. During his junior season there he rushed for 1,900 yards and then posted a 1,500-yard season as a senior. Wyoming, Arizona State, Arizona, and Boise State were among the schools that recruited him.

Orange County is home to a good number of community colleges, but several of his high school linemen opted for Santa Ana. Those guys helped to convince Johnson to follow along. "They're a running school, so it was perfect," said Johnson. It goes without saying that Jones and Company are happy that Johnson chose the Dons.

Spring ball is underway and early indicators are that Johnson is focused on improving his game: both in the classroom and on the gridiron. Jones thinks his young charge has a good chance of getting out in December, and Johnson concurs. "December is the goal. I'm taking summer school classes to help make it happen."

Although it's only April, Johnson is getting lots of mail from four-year colleges. Jones says he's thinking about getting a special mailbox just for Johnson.

"I've got a top five right now of Boise State, Colorado, Florida State, UCLA, and Nebraska," said Johnson. "But my current goals is to do whatever it takes to help get our team to a bowl. Then to graduate and move to the next level."

NOTES: Johnson will be running behind a quality offensive line, led by his running mates from Newport Harbor HS. A.J. Slater (6-5, 295) is a returning starter at left tackle and Chris Badorek (6-4, 330) was a backup tackle who will be starting this year. Slater could be a blue-chipper.


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