CHERUBINI CHIMES IN
One-on-One with the
August 11, 2010
By Ron Cherubini
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Ohhhhh… it has been a long wait for Rio Johnson at East Carolina. Recruited
to be the future Patrick Pinkney by the Skip Holtz staff, Johnson saw his
early opportunity to play fall by the wayside when Holtz left for South
Florida. Enter Ruffin McNeill and crew bringing the Texas Tech brand of wide
open passing and Johnson found himself starting all over, learning the
spread offense and trying to find bonds with a new staff, particularly
offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Early on, the road was rocky for Johnson, first watching JUCO come into the
program to be the starter, then seeing a former walk-on take the back-up job
in 2010, leaving him down the depth chart next to a redshirt freshman
hand-picked by Riley. And, worse, Riley and Johnson weren’t on the same page
in regards to Johnson’s maturity level.
Still, Riley saw that Johnson had talent and potential. Fast-forward a year
and in 2011, Johnson earned the back-up job to star Dominique Davis – now
making noise with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. Fast forward again, and
Johnson heads into fall camp in the thick of the battle for the No. 1 job.
Just a junior, Johnson has a lot of football ahead of him if he can separate
himself from a game challenge by redshirt freshman Shane Carden.
Considered the guy with the edge in the all-important leadership category
and with a strong arm, Johnson has the tools to be a good QB in this system.
It might come down to pure want power. He got a tiny taste of action a year
ago, so expect Johnson to leave nothing in reserve as he vies for the top
Rio was kind enough to sit down for a chat with Bonesville to share his
insights on the upcoming season.
Rio Johnson in action (ECU SID photo)
One-on-One with Rio Johnson
Q: What a journey to this point
it has been for you, coming in under former coach
Skip Holtz, seeing the offense wholesale changed,
and then seeing the staff go out and bring in the
likes of Dominique Davis and you found yourself
waiting still. Talk about that journey a bit?
A: You know it has been a long
journey but all along I have always put my faith in
God and that He would lead me in the right way. I
have done what the coaches have asked me to do to
the best of my abilities.
Q: You got just a little taste of
game action a year ago. What do you think you
learned from that experience that you can use to
maybe take the top spot this season?
A: I definitely think that little
bit of game experience has helped me, mentally, to
prepare for (the QB competition). Coach Riley has
told us all that we are not going off the past, but
we are looking forward (to what) we can do now to
help this team.
Q: As you said, Coach Riley is
not giving any credit for the past in this current
competition, and by all accounts, it is a true
competition between the four of you. For you, what
does that competition mean?
A: Competition really does bring
out the best in a person in any situation, I believe
that. You have to bring your “A” game every day and
I think about that each time I have an opportunity
to get a rep in practice.
Q: Coach Riley noted a couple of
times that you have matured a ton in a year and that
has changed everything in terms of your chances,
particularly in the category of leadership, which
Riley puts up there with all the other skills his
QBs must have. Can you talk a little about your
evolution as a leader? Did you pick up anything
working behind Dominique Davis in that regard?
A: You know, I feel like a
learned a lot from Dominique about how to carry
yourself as the quarterback. He was a great leader
to learn from. I feel like I understand what is
expected from a quarterback when he walks into the
room or into the huddle. You have to be able to lead
to play quarterback… it comes with the territory. I
definitely feel like I know this offense and can run
it at full tempo and at full tilt and I think I
bring that to the huddle and on the field with my
Q: What player do you most
respect on this team and why?
A: I respect them all… but, I
would say Trent Tignor (holder/punter). He works
hard, he is always on time, always does his job the
way it is supposed to be done. He is always straight
with you… just a guy I respect.
Q: You have had a chance to work
against our defensive front. Are you seeing the same
thing that outsiders speculate – that this defensive
front is legit?
A:. Man… our front seven is
impressive. They have a lot of guys who are
talented. Going against them in practice you can see
it. Not just the defensive line, but the whole front
seven… man. Yeah, I think that they are pretty good.
Q: Drop a name or two of a young
receiver who will make a name for himself in 2012?
A: Reese Wiggins is off to a real
good start this season and he has that speed and
makes plays. And another guy, Brandon Weymann, he
was a walk on but he has done a lot of good things
and has really stepped up in camp. I think those two
guys could really help this year.
Q: Working with the offensive
line, are you seeing a bunch of improvement there?
A: I definitely see it. Last
year, we had one of the youngest offensive lines in
the country, but this year, you know, we have pretty
much every one of those guys coming back. I feel
like they have all individually built on last year’s
experiences and together are much better. I do feel
confident in the offensive line.
Q: Coach Riley said you made a
good accounting for yourself in the spring, yet none
of you guys has been able to shake the other ones
free. Tell us why you should be the guy we’re
watching this season?
A: I feel like I have worked hard
at becoming a better leader and that I am the best
leader (in the group), I know the offense the most
and I can recognize defenses and scenarios the best.
I think I am ready for the challenge.
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