Brian Johnson will redshirt this year to give his knee more time to heal.
Aug. 17, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY -
Utah's scrimmage on Thursday morning featured plenty of big hits, impressive receptions and pinpoint passing. But the biggest news was who didn't play. Brian Johnson, who as a sophomore last year started in 10 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, watched from the sidelines after making the decision to redshirt the night before.
"The decision was purely medical," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "Brian has had a very impressive camp in terms of performance. "All of us involved--Brian, (offensive coordinator) Andy Ludwig, Brian's dad and I--agreed on this course of action. Brian has been taking 33-percent of the snaps and has had soreness in that knee. As the starter, he would be taking 75-percent of the reps and none of us thinks his knee is ready for that yet.
"It's a win-win situation," continued Whittingham. "The win for Brian is that he can get his knee 100-percent ready to play next year. The win for our team is that the quarterback picture is a lot clearer now and we know we're set for the next three years."
Johnson, who finished fourth in the nation in total offense last year while leading the MWC (337.0 yards per game), expressed pride in his performance during the first two weeks of camp, but affirmed the decision was for the best.
"I felt that I outplayed the other quarterbacks but my knee is still only at about 85-percent," said Johnson after watching the scrimmage. "Performing so well under those conditions gives me motivation to keep working hard to get back to 100-percent. The X factor has always been my knee. If it was not 100-percent, I knew I would redshirt. I'm excited for the team this year and I'm looking forward to playing with the great young talent we have at receiver when I return."
In Johnson's absence, senior Brett Ratliff and junior Tommy Grady split the reps. Whittingham hopes to finalize a decision on the starter by the weekend, but may wait until after next Tuesday's scrimmage.
Grady had the more impressive day of the two statistically, completing 11 of 16 passes for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns (one during red zone drills). Ratliff, though not quite as sharp (7-of-16 for 116 yards and 3 TDS), showed some of the presence that helped him lead Utah to season-ending victories over Brigham Young and Georgia Tech last year.
Receiver Derrek Richards was the favorite target of the two, catching five balls for 115 yards and 2 TDs. The speedster outran the field for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Grady for the longest offensive play of the day. Sophomore Freddie Brown made some impressive grabs that included a 36-yard touchdown ball from Ratliff and a leaping catch between two defenders in the end zone during red zone drills (also from Ratliff). Fano Tagovailoa was helped off the field after a 3-catch, 31-yard day when he sprained his knee. His status will be evaluated later and is day-to-day for now.
Defensively, sophomore cornerback Brice McCain provided the highlight reel play of the game when he leveled receiver Bradon Godfrey after a catch. Godfrey stumbled back to the ground after trying to get to his feet and was diagnosed with a mild concussion. McCain also picked off a Grady-thrown pass and returned it 28 yards.