Re-assessing potential future Longhorn RB Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson - Student Sports

Evaluating prospects some times requires more context than is easily available.

On the surface, there was some reason for concern when looking at the 2013 film of San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian running back Kirk Johnson, who appeared to lack burst and fluidity on many of his highlights.

His offer from the Longhorns was his first despite having already completed his junior season, there was a major gap between the rest of the services and his 247Sports rating, and his testing numbers from a Nike event last year were good but far from great.

How can all those things be much better informed with more context?

Finding out from his father, Texas legend Johnnie Johnson, that he had intentionally taken the recruiting process slow with Kirk, skipping many recruiting events and camps that would have likely increased his offer list more quickly, that Kirk ran a 4.47 40 at the Army Combine while registering a 36.5-inch vertical leap, and that Kirk played with a number of injuries as a junior that caused him to miss several games. HIs father said that his son was never more than 60% healthy that season.

So not only is Johnson a much better athlete than indicated by the Nike event testing numbers, but he also has extremely impressive sophomore highlights.

Even when healthy, Johnson is at his best when he's going downhill and quickly exploiting vertical seams, where his sub-4.5 speed tells and he was able to consistently pull away from defenders in a way that he wasn't able to do as a result of injuries during his junior season.

Other than the big difference in acceleration, what also stands out from sophomore film is that Johnson was better making lateral cuts in traffic to find holes and get into the open field -- he looked more fluid in the hips than he often did as a junior.

Additionally, his ability to step through arm tackles around his feet allowed him to pick up major extra yardage once into the open field with one defender to beat and when tacklers were able to get him higher on his body, he was able to use his leg drive and lower-body strength to drag defenders for yards after contact, a skill that is often difficult to translate to college, but is nonetheless impressive to see from a high school sophomore weighing well less than 200 pounds.

Put all those skills together and the perception of a limited running back who might be better off at another position dissipates and the full view of a tough, speedy back comes into focus. Put the emphasis on tough there, but again, the legitimate sub-4.5 speed deserves further mention, too.

Call Johnson the type of back who would make an excellent addition to the class, even with all the in-state talent available.

In terms of his recruitment, he's made commitments to take some visits to some top programs in the region and nationally, but those plans could change once the family sits down to discuss the Texas offer, including younger brother Collin Johnson, a wide receiver who wasn't able to shine much as a pass-catcher in the run-heavy Valley Christian offense, but has impressive ball skills.

When that conversation happens, it's possible the brothers could end their respective recruitments and follow in the footsteps of their father by heading to Texas. If it does, they won't be taking other visits, as their father believes in the value of a commitment and what it means to be a man of your word.

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