Former G.W. Carver High standout and Troy University transfer Jamel Johnson has earned his second start in as many games with head coach Reggie Barlow’s decision to start Johnson in the Magic City Classic on Saturday.
Johnson earned his first start at home against Prairie View A&M two weeks ago and Barlow decided Johnson had done nothing to lose that status, even though his receivers are fairly interchageable.
“He’s actually taken over (DeMario) Bell’s spot, but they’re so interchangeable at that position, they all end up playing the same number of reps,” Barlow said. “Bell is still having the drops so we wanted to figure out a way to get him back on track.”
Johnson is the team’s third leading receiver (behind Earl Lucas and Bell) with 13 receptions for 121 yards, including the game winner at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“He’s had some crucial catches,” Barlow said. “It wasn’t eight or nine catches (per game), but it was a slant route where he broke two or three tackles and got a first down. He’s been having good practices and his attitude is good, so we want to reward guys like that.”
Despite his ability and big-play potential, Johnson doesn’t get the opportunity to catch too many passes in a game unless he runs a crossing route that takes time to develop.
“In our system, a lot of times that backside receiver (is overlooked) because our three receivers are all to the ‘field,’ Barlow explained. “In most cases, you’re going to be running (the play) to the ‘field,’ but there are times when we run plays, we call it a ‘choice,’ and it’s a read that goes to the No. 1 receiver backside. But if we get two high safeties, the read changes. So a lot of times, it’s just been the read has just dictated that we do something else.”