It's not like he's never played the position before. In fact, Baylor sophomore Chris Johnson was a national recruit as one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the country before inking with the Bears, ranking as high as #5 by ESPN at his position and listed as a top 300 recruit overall. The 6'5", 235 pound player spent his first season in Waco on the practice squad, redshirting at QB instead of sitting behind Bryce Petty and Seth Russell two years ago. He moved to WR this year in response to the signing of five star prospect Jarrett Stidham, but returned to quarterback when Russell was lost to injury a few weeks ago.
A former early-enrollee, Johnson was signed as an incredibly athletic, but very raw dual-threat QB. Despite his high ranking, there was always concern over accuracy, and those concerns were validated in his first spring practices. But despite some early struggles, he had the arm strength and touch on deep balls to remain firmly entrenched as the backup - until Stidham showed up. That being said, he drew comparisons to Vince Young coming out of high school, due to his three quarter arm slot and excellent mobility for his size - and as such, is not your typical third string QB. He may well be more of a threat as a runner than a passer at this point in his career, but that has been the achilles heel of a TCU defense that struggles to bring down big backs and mobile QBs (see: Mayfield, Baker). It will be an interesting chess match between Gary Patterson and Briles if Stidham is indeed sidelined - can GP draw up a defense that contains Johnson and forces him to throw into tight windows on short passes and make second reads? Or will Briles (who won't have any real options behind his third stringer) let Johnson use his feet and make plays out of the pocket and on the move?
Let's take a closer look at Chris Johnson, and the problems he may present for the Frogs.
If you go back to his high school tape, where he was more of a running threat than pass first QB, a couple things immediately standout. One: this is a BIG dude. Two: there is no way a kid that big should be able to change directions that quickly.
It's also hard not to notice what a beautiful deep ball he throws... he can fit the passes into tight windows and has a really nice touch and feel on his passes. BUT... and this might be why we haven't seen him in the lineup until this point... he wasn't often asked to make a second, or third, read.
While he had limited action behind center collegiately before his extended snaps in Stillwater, having attempted only four passes for 29 yards as a redshirt freshman last season, he showed no signs of rust against the Cowboys early. This perfectly placed touchdown pass illustrates that:
Let's break down that play a little further, though. First things first, look at the pocket the young gun has to work with:
OSU, likely assuming he will come in and run draws and zone read plays, doesn't send much of a pass rush. With only four on the line and the linebackers covering the middle of the field, Johnson has plenty of time and room to step up and in to his throw. Next, he made one read. The Bears have such a stable of explosive receivers, it's rare that they don't have someone open - and in this instance, the safety help is late and Jay Lee has a step on his defender, leaving a nice window:
Johnson sees the window and drops the ball in about as perfectly as a QB can:
Johnson ran only six times on Saturday, for 42 yards, while completing five of his ten passing attempts for a ridiculous 128yards and two touchdowns after Stidham left. With star running back Shock Linwood also questionable, much more will fall on Johnson's shoulders - and legs - in Fort Worth, Friday. TCU struggled mightily when Baker Mayfield broke loose of the pocket - something Briles surely noted, and bringing down the much bigger Johnson could prove even more challenging. If it is indeed the third stringer's game to play, the Frogs will have their hands full with the dual purpose threat. It will be up to the defensive line to get pressure, the linebackers to make the tackle on first contact, and the defensive backs to cover well enough to force him to make a second and third read. He did throw one INT against the Pokes, and throwing different looks and blitzes at him could also be effective in forcing mistakes. TCU is going to have to play their best ball of the season to beat the Bears - no matter who is taking snaps - but Coach Patterson, and this ever improving defense - should be up to the challenge.
Baylor. Delenda. Est. Go Frogs.