Montrell Johnson, Jr. announced his commitment through the transfer portal to the Florida Gators via Twitter, which may have surprised some fans. With Nay’Quan Wright, Demarkcus Bowman, and Lorenzo Lingard on the current roster and Trevor Etienne committed, it seemed like Florida may have had the offensive backfield set, especially with 4-star prospect Trevonte Citizen visiting this weekend.
Fast Forward to January 13th and Johnson is now part of Florida’s football roster, but what does he exactly bring to the table?
Johnson has only played one year at Louisiana. He will enter into a loaded roster of running backs who have proven themselves as elite high school recruits (Bowman and Lingard), and a running back in Nay’Quan Wright who has had flashes of excellence despite being behind two guys entering the NFL Draft in Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis.
In Johnson’s first year as a collegiate running back at Louisiana, he accounted for 841 total rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 18 runs of 10 or more yards and 49 total first downs. Additionally he forced 24 missed tackles, a ran for 519 yards after contact while averaging 5.2 yards per rush.
Johnson was sharing carries in another crowded backfield as Chris Smith and Emani Bailey rushed for 1,491 yards in addition to Johnson’s share. Obviously, Napier has no problem getting plenty of carries for each of his backs, but for a true freshman to come in and make such an impact is rather impressive, no matter what conference it happened in.
Furthermore, it is impressive that he would earn the Sun Belt’s Freshman of the Year award. But is this a testament to Billy Napier’s ability to get the most out of his running backs and dominate the line of scrimmage? Or is this just some anomaly?
Elijah Mitchell was the top Sun Belt running back entering the 2021 NFL Draft. He accounted for 3,246 rushing yards and averaged 6.2 yards per rush and 41 touchdowns for his career at Louisiana. He also won his fair share of awards in the Sun Belt throughout his career at Louisiana. Napier has also had multiple running backs who have rushed 600 plus yards in a season multiple times in his tenure at Louisiana. But, not one running back under Napier’s guidance has gained more than Johnson’s 841 in their freshman campaign. Trey Ragas was the closest to this threshold at 812, though this was also before Napier entered the program in 2018. With Napier at the helm of the program, Ragas excelled in rushing yardage finishing the 2018 season with 1,181 rushing yards.
So, is this a testament to Montrell’s talent as a freshman entering college, or is this the kind of success that Billy Napier has instilled as a head coach? I honestly think it is a little bit of both, and that is a recipe for success with Johnson coming into the animal called the Southeastern Conference.