Clemson marquee commit Hunter Johnson, the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country, led his team to another narrow win Friday evening.
The five-star quarterback and top player in the state of Indiana struggled to get the passing game going, but a late rushing touchdown in overtime gave Brownsburg the edge they needed to move to 6-0 on the season.
“These guys have worked so hard . . . and now that we’re 6-0, it’s just outstanding,” Johnson said in a post-game interview. While Johnson scored two touchdowns in the first half, he completed just five passes on 17 attempts in the second half, including an interception thrown into double coverage late in the game.
While Johnson is classified as a pro-style quarterback, it’s easy to see why he was recruited to Clemson; Brownsburg’s offense takes almost every snap from a spread look and features quite a few option plays to highlight Johnson’s track background and great ability to evade contact. Many of Johnson’s carries this season have come when a sub-par offensive line forced him to scramble, but he’s been quick on his feet and able to scamper for a few big gains on designed keepers as well, including an overtime rushing touchdown that would eventually seal the victory for Brownsburg on Friday night.
He isn’t putting up the type of numbers you’d typically expect from a blue chip recruit in a region like Indiana, but much of this can be attributed to a fairly shallow supporting cast. Johnson faces pressure on nearly every snap, and the few times he’s been able to have time in the pocket, receivers have dropped perfectly-placed deep balls that truly highlight his classification as a pocket passer.
Even through the personnel struggles, though, Johnson has still led Brownsburg to a 6-0 start, which isn’t something to be scoffed at in the Indianapolis area. All of these wins have been close, but Johnson has managed to spearhead the offensive effort and put the Bulldogs in a position to win each time. The fit into Clemson’s spread system has been a question mark since Johnson flipped his commitment last December, but Tiger fans should find comfort in the fact that Johnson has been able to make plays on the ground despite poor protection from his offensive line.
Johnson has also showed a strong resilience after hard contact, showcased especially after a string of uncalled late hits starting last week against Fishers. It’s difficult to imagine how these hits after the whistle are not getting called, especially after a particularly egregious no-call Friday evening.
“It’s a little annoying sometimes, but it’s football,” Johnson said regarding the late hits. “You’ve got to deal with it and move on, and hopefully sometime those calls will come.” Johnson has remained spectacularly level-headed even after hits that could’ve sidelined him, and his self-control while describing the missed calls shows a calmness not often found in high school athletes, especially after the emotion of an overtime win. He will obviously face much stronger defenses in the ACC, but his ability to pop back up thus far is a good sign for an offensive scheme that will necessitate quite a few carries on the ground.
Ideally, you’d like to see eye-popping numbers from a five-star commit, but performances like what we’ve seen so far this season can often be more telling than six straight blowout games. Johnson displays an aptitude for finding ways to win, even against tough and well-coached teams, and that sort of leadership is one that plenty of teams are envious of. The system fit won’t come overnight, but he’s made measurable progress in the ground game that will surely pay off once he arrives on campus.