Thursday, March 10, 2011
Non-AQ Top 25 Players: No. 8
By Andrea Adelson
If you want to talk about underrated, then you will find plenty of players to fit that bill on this list. If you want to talk about undersized, you will find plenty of players to fit that bill on this list as well. But does any of that really matter when you set NCAA records -- as a junior?
Damaris Johnson had 329 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
At 5-foot-8, Johnson has always been one of the smallest players on the field. He told me in November his mantra was: “The next guy may be bigger, but I’ll outwork that guy.” Growing up in Louisiana, none of the big schools wanted him, so he settled on Tulsa because of its high-powered offense. But he has done more than just play offense. The guy has been a wizard on special teams, too, and won C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year honors. For the second straight season, Johnson led the nation in all-purpose yards, averaging 202.1 yards per game. He was the only player to average at least 200 yards. Included in that nifty little stat -- he led the team in receiving with 872 yards and was second on the team in rushing with 560, in addition to racking up a team-high 904 yards on kickoff returns. Already as a junior, he set the NCAA marks for career all-purpose yards (7,796) and career kickoff return yards. His incredible performance in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii was the best of his career -- 329 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Remarkably, he has caught at least one pass in all 36 games he has played, and racked up six 200-plus all-purpose yard games in 2010. Getting to 10,000 career all-purpose yards is within the realm of possibility. He had 2,628 this past season. Another year like that in 2011 and he goes well past that mark.