They say it takes talent to play the game of football. Talent is something you're born with, it isn't decided by the team you play for or by the level of competition you play against. Talent is what's in you and how you express yourself on the field. Talent has reached the University of San Diego and it resides in the form of a 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback marvel named Josh Johnson.
If Johnson's name doesn't register as a top quarterback in the land, it's probably because he stars for the Division 1-AA Toreros. But don't let the level of competition fool – you. Johnson is a legitimate prospect who has all the tools to become a major success at the next level.
"He's a true quarterback; he really understands the game and is like a coach on field," San Diego wide receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said. "He changes protections. He asks questions. He really is fun to be around and is a breath of fresh air."
Johnson, a senior, has been a productive player since he became the starter at San Diego as a sophomore. Since he took over the reigns, he has sparked the Toreros offense with his sensational play – not just as a quarterback, but also as a playmaker. Johnson is not only an accomplished passer, but he's also an elusive signal-caller who can make plays on the run.
"He's not a stereotypical athletic quarterback," Mooshagain said. "He's a quarterback first. For this level, he's in a class by himself. He's got a great future ahead of him."
Johnson's future is bright because of his performance and ability to lead the No. 1 ranked Toreros. He was a quick study behind center as a sophomore, completing over 70 percent of his passes and amassed 3,256 yards, 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The ensuing season, he posted similar numbers throwing for 3,320 yards, 34 touchdowns and five interceptions.
If you think those numbers are impressive, Johnson's performance this season has been nothing short of incredible. After being suspended for the first game of the year against Azusa Pacific due to breaking team rules, Johnson has been unstoppable. In nine games, Johnson has completed 188-of-269 passes for 2,721 yards, 38 touchdowns and just one interception.
Josh Johnson on the run
AP Photo/Mia Malafronte
"He can play at the next level," San Diego head coach Ron Caragher said. "Not only does he have a strong arm and quick release, he's smart and very good at recognizing coverage and finding the weak link."
Johnson is an outstanding athlete who has great skills to be a successful quarterback at the professional level. He has great awareness in the pocket, feels pressure, eludes defenders with his quickness, and makes plays on the run. He has a strong, accurate arm and displays nice touch on deep balls and intermediate routes. He works through his progressions, finds the open man, and delivers the ball in stride. He makes quick decisions and is smart with the ball.
The biggest knock against Johnson is the competition he has played against at San Diego. A true sense of his talent will be seen when he plays in the East-West Shrine game against top competition and with plenty of NFL scouts in attendance studying his every move. Johnson plays with a lot of poise, but it will be interesting to see how he performs on a highly competitive stage.
Johnson has the skill to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he's at least three years away from making a major contribution. The perfect scenario is for Johnson to back up a savvy veteran who can show him the ropes and give him time to understand the game at its highest level. Johnson is a bit of an enigma, but if you watch him on film you're amazed by his accuracy and touch. With a positive showing at East-West Shrine Game, and an even better outing at the NFL Scouting Combine, Johnson has a chance to be a late third-round selection.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.