Devon Johnson is no stranger to having the football in his hands.
The 6-1, 240 lb. sophomore tight end from Richlands, Va. was primarily a running back in high school. Now with the Thundering Herd, Johnson is using his ability with the ball to catch as well.
Johnson recorded his first touchdown of the season on Saturday in the Thundering Herd’s 34-10 defeat of the UTSA Roadrunners. The 17-yard pass from Rakeem Cato to Johnson came in a situation, and on a similar route, that Herd fans are familiar seeing Gator Hoskins shine.
Johnson attributes being able to step up into the role normally filled by Hoskins to the skill work the tight ends do every day under the direction of tight ends coach Todd Hartley.
“We run routes a lot in practice and we go over it every day and we try to be perfect at it so when games come around, we can be perfect,” says Johnson.
Perfect is what Johnson was on the play, a simple post route from the right side of the offensive line. Cato’s pass landed in Johnson’s hands right as he crossed the goal line. Even though running routes is a vital part of being a tight end in Marshall’s system, Johnson says blocking is more crucial.
“We take pride in blocking way more than running routes and catching balls because it starts up front,” Johnson says. “We’ve got to block to help the running backs out, and when the running backs break free, it opens up the passing game for Cato, the wide receivers, and us [tight ends].”
In two of the three intra-squad scrimmages the Herd had back in August during fall camp, Marshall fans were able to catch a glimpse of the physicality Johnson brings to the table, once with a thunderous head of steam running over safety Corie Wilson, and again with a devastating stiff arm of DJ Hunter. Despite his success with the ball on past occasions, Johnson says he prefers to utilize his physical nature to execute a big block instead of making a catch.
“I’d rather pancake a guy because I feel like it helps the team a lot more and the running backs will feel more comfortable knowing we can get our blocks down and they can run a whole lot better,” says Johnson.
— Braxton Crisp