When Middle Tennessee State's Kevin Byard says Devon Johnson is "like a tight end playing running back," he's mostly right.
Johnson, nicknamed "Rockhead" for his physical style, was a tight end for Marshall. Then he was a linebacker for the Thundering Herd.
Last season, Johnson played like both after moving to running back and exploding for 1,767 yards to lead Conference USA with 17 touchdowns. And that's with missing one game and being limited to a total of seven carries in the final two regular-season games because of injuries.
"I had to watch my team go to war without me. It was awful," he said. "I'm back to full strength. I’m faster and stronger and quicker than I was last year.”
So 2,000 yards or bust this season? Maybe. Johnson finished fifth in FBS last season with 135.9 yards per game and 8.58 yards per rush.
“He can do it," said teammate Jarquez Samuel. "With the offensive line? They’re mean and nasty. He can do it.”
But maybe not. Johnson rushed for only 89 yards in Marshall's 41-31 victory Sunday against Purdue in its first game against a Big Ten opponent. But he carried only 11 times and maintained his school-record 8.0-yard rushing average. He also scored two touchdowns.
Besides, Johnson has bigger goals.
"My goal for this year is to stay healthy," Johnson said. "Get the goals that our team set out to do and that's to win another conference championship and make a BCS bowl game."
Be careful if you get in his way.
On the cover: Marshall's Devon Johnson led Conference USA with 1,767 yards last season, his first at running back. (Photo courtesy of Marshall Athletics)