While players like Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford where busy winning National Titles and Heisman Trophies during the 2008 season, Brian Johnson was quietly leading the Utah Utes to an undefeated season, the only top college quarterback to claim that distinction this past season. Saving his best for the last three games of the season, Johnson was flawless in big wins against San Diego State (63-14), arch rival BYU (48-24), and Alabama (31-17) in the Sugar Bowl. When it was all said and done, Johnson had people wondering what could have been, had Utah been given a chance to play for the National Title.
Against San Diego State, the highly rated passer threw for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns. A week later against state rival BYU, Johnson easily outperformed the Cougar’s Max Hall by completing 30 out of 36 passes for 303 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yet it was against highly regarded and rated Alabama that Johnson was at his best. In the Sugar Bowl, Brian completed 27 out of 41 passes for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns. Staking the Utes to a 21-0 led by the end of the first quarter, one which Utah never relinquished, Johnson was instrumental in the Ute’s Bowl game victory. The Sugar Bowl victory left Johnson, with 26 career wins and only 7 losses, as Utah’s most successful quarterback of all-time. The prolific Senior leaves the school with 7,711 career yards passing, 56 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions.
Ahead in 2009 is the NFL Combine, and the NFL Entry Draft. Yet it remains to be seen if Johnson can continue his success at the NFL level. At 6-1, 205 lbs, Johnson lacks the prototypical built for the position. Yet there are plenty of quarterback his size who have found success at the professional level, including Drew Brees who this year became only the second passer in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards. Another concern that NFL Scouts may have is Johnson’s history with injuries, having suffered a separated shoulder last season (2007), and a knee injury in 2005. The injuries have left Johnson slightly less mobile than before. Though Johnson can still run a projected 4.7-4.8 40, Pro scouts may be paying some attention to his mobility at the Combine. Still, this three time Academic All-American, has the intelligence, leadership and poise to make a few teams want to take a close look.
If Johnson does well at the NFL combine, he may go as high as the fifth round. If not, look for him as a free agent invite to an NFL team hurting at the quarterback spot.
Khvatov, Alex, “Brain Johnson Interview – Quarterback Utah,” www.nfldraftblitz.com