The Texas Longhorns will get their first look at dynamic freshman Daje Johnson on Saturday when he makes his collegiate debut against New Mexico.
Johnson has been working out of the backfield and as a receiver. He was suspended for the Longhorns' season opener last Saturday for a violation of team rules.
"We will be able to move him around, get him out in space and let him run down the field and let him catch some throws," UT offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "Some quick balls to get it in his hands and let him try to do some things with it is how we utilized him [in practice]. As we put the game plan together he will definitely be in the mix."
Johnson is working at a similar position as senior D.J. Monroe. They are each among UT's fastest offensive players and were tailbacks in high school. Still, the Longhorns see Johnson as a better fit in the passing game.
"Daje has done more of the wide receiver position," Harsin said. "He is a natural back as well. He did that in high school, and he has a feel for that. He has played more receiver [here]. We have utilized him more and more because of the formations. Playing receiver you get exposed to more formations and movements and things like that, and that is what we wanted to do so he felt more comfortable with it."
Monroe has never been a featured back at Texas, but he's typically had a package of plays that utilize his speed on the outside. He rushed for 36 yards on five carries, including a 7-yard touchdown in the season opener against Wyoming.
Coming into his senior season, Monroe worked to become a better receiver by running routes and catching tennis balls. He has nine career receptions for 95 yards.
"I just had to make sure that was one of the things I got better at because that seemed to be a problem," Monroe said. "I think my hands are a lot better than they were. I wasn't a good catcher, but now I think my hands have improved a whole lot."
The Longhorns are also developing specific packages to fit Johnson's skill set. While those plays could cut into Monroe's playing time, the senior isn't worried about it.
"The guy is good. He's just as fast as me," Monroe said. "I would love to see anybody play. Speed is speed and if we got it, use it."
— Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram