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One-on-One with the Pirates
, August 11, 2010

By Ron Cherubini

Q&A with Rio Johnson

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

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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 slot.

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 teammates.

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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Ron Cherubini Archives

08/12/2012 02:13 AM


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