The Five Spot — No. 2: Devon Johnson’s shoulders

August 7, 2015 by Derek Redd

And it’s not the fact that Johnson’s shoulders might have to bear the weight of the Marshall offense. It’s that they had to bear the wear and tear of 206 carries during the 2014 season, many of them going through the heart of the opposing defense.

When you’re working with 245 pounds like Johnson is, that’s usually where those carries will go. The drawback to that is the constant contact, bouncing off defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs at different points. During last season’s campaign, that contact led to a torn labrum and sprained deltoid. The labrum wasn’t a problem. He played his freshman year with a torn labrum. The sprained deltoid was the most painful malady, and forced him to miss time, time that could have given him a 2,000-yard season if he was healthy.

Johnson’s fine now. The injuries were fixed in the offseason and he took it easy during the spring. But he’ll want to try some techniques this year that would reduce the potential for injuries. With a new quarterback under center in Michael Birdsong, Johnson will be looked toward even more in 2015, both as a blocker and a runner.

Those techniques already are a part of Johnson’s workouts. It helps to have as your running backs coach a guy like Chris Barclay, the former ACC offensive player of the year at Wake Forest who spent a couple of seasons in the NFL. In Barclay’s last three seasons with the Demon Deacons, he never had a season with fewer than 218 carries and carried the ball 243 times as a junior in 2004.

It wouldn’t surprise if Johnson carried the ball that much this year. With Stew Butler gone, Remi Watson is next on the running back depth chart. He carried the ball 100 times in 2015. After that is Tony Pittman with seven carries. Pittman’s workload should definitely increase, but will Birdsong match Rakeem Cato’s 94 carries from last year? The target might not be on Johnson’s chest this season. Opponents might place it a little higher on his body.

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