Commentary

Meet Marcus Johnson

Former coach talks about his star slot receiver

Updated: May 3, 2012, 10:21 PM ET
By Max Olson | HornsNation

Marcus JohnsonDavide De Pas for ESPN.comIf Marcus Johnson works on his underneath route running, he could find his way into Texas' receiver rotation.
Editor's note: Before Texas' 2012 recruiting class arrives on campus, HornsNation will talk with each of the incoming freshman one more time before their college careers begin

Receiver Marcus Johnson (League City, Texas/Clear Springs) committed to Texas Tech last June. Then, in late November, he committed to Texas A&M. A week later, he was a Longhorn. He stuck with that plan and is looking forward to the chance to play for his dream school.

In an interview with HornsNation, Clear Springs coach Clint Hartman looked back on Johnson's wild recruitment and explains why the speedy slot receiver is a sleeper to keep an eye on in UT's incoming recruiting class.

HornsNation: Back in January, you said you felt Texas was getting a steal in Marcus Johnson. Why do you say that?

Clint Hartman: I still do. I think he's a fine young man, a kid I'd like to have date my daughters -- and I have three of them. Not only is he a good football player, he's a good man. He'll represent the University of Texas on and off the field with high regard.

HN: What made you certain he was the best slot receiver in the state last year?

CH: When you start looking at receivers and you start doing the five stars and all that stuff, when you get down to it there's a lot of great players that don't work very hard. Well I can tell you first-hand I know Marcus is a great player who works very hard. That only ends up turning out very well for you in the future.

He's a very polished route runner and he's also extremely fast. He runs a 20.1 200-meter dash. You also get his toughness and his character and how hard he works. He's going to block as hard as he catches. I'm biased because I coached him, but I've coached some good ones and he's a no-brainer for me. He's going to continue to get better. He's already got a good frame. He's 6-foot-2, about 195 pounds. He's only going to get better.

HN: How do you think he handled his recruiting process?

CH: I think it was a tough situation for him because his dream was to play at the University of Texas and his offers were to play at Tech and Texas A&M. He had to look at those things. Of course, with the instability of [former Texas A&M] coach [Mike] Sherman, I'm glad he decommitted and got his chance to go to Texas.

I think Texas was a little late on him in the recruiting process, and they had a new receivers coach. But coach Major Applewhite did a good job, and he was the contact guy but not the receivers coach. By the time they finally did see Marcus, it was a little late. But Marcus told me as a freshman he wanted to play at the University of Texas. So I'm extremely happy a young man who works as hard as him got to reach his goal. I'm proud of him.

HN: How did the coaching staffs at Texas Tech and A&M handle it when he backed out on them?

CH: You know, I don't know how they handled it. I know we're an up-front and honest place around here. When that happens, we're going to call and tell them. Marcus was a man about it. He didn't hide. He called them and said his reasoning. You can be mad and hurt about it for a little bit, but you've got to go get that next receiver. They took it fine.

HN: Was it tough on him going into his senior season to not have that interest or offer from his dream school? Did that motivate him?

CH: I'd like to think yeah, but I've never seen him change from day one. Since Marcus came here as a freshman, he's been doing extra, always running after practice extra. That never changed, whether it was Tech offering him or A&M. I think he's extremely motivated to be extremely successful, not only as a player but as a person.

HN: How excited was he when he got that Texas offer and got to commit there and make his dream come true?

CH: I'd say he was as excited as a kid walking into Disneyland. I was extremely excited for him. I can't wait.

HN: If you were on the Texas coaching staff, how would you use Marcus in his freshman year?

CH: It's hard for me to answer that question. I would use him. I'll tell you what we did: We got him the ball early, and we got him in some space, and he was very successful in those type of deals. I think he's a great vertical threat because of his speed, and he has the ability to lean and catch on the outside shoulder. I'd use him in that manner.

HN: Are there a few plays of his you'll always remember during his time at Clear Springs?

CH: A few stick out right away. The night Pearland had just gone up 7 and he returned a kickoff to tie the game up and capture the momentum back on our side. That was a big part of the season, because that was the first district game and we ran the table from there.

Other ones, I'd say, when we played our rival Clear Creek and he had three touchdowns that night. That was a special deal. Two receiving and one rushing. That was great. The last one I'd say is against Port Arthur, his last catch of our last game of the season. When the game was over, I was sad to say it was my last day with the kid.

HN: When you look at Marcus' future at Texas, what do you think his goals should be?

CH: I can't speak for him, but every competitor wants to get on the field right away. I think this No. 1 goal should be to grasp and master the offense, because as good as you are that doesn't matter. You need to grasp and master the offense, and from there let your athleticism take over.

HN: Where do you see him fitting in as a returner in the college game?

CH: I know he returned kicks for us and was extremely successful doing it. He returned, I think, six kickoff returns for touchdowns in 12 games. That's a pretty good percentage.

HN: What kind of teammate is Texas getting in Marcus?

CH: Great teammate. Like I said, I don't say it lightly when I say I'd like a guy to date my daughter.

HN: What makes you so confident he will succeed as a Longhorn?

CH: There's no doubt in my mind, because of his work ethic, his character and because he's driven. We all know they have great players, but he'll get in the mix and he won't be intimidated. He'll be a great teammate and a great addition in that locker room.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter