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Meet Daje Johnson

Texas coaches have high hopes that Daje Johnson can make a variety of contributions as a freshman. Max Olson/ESPN.com

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.

Texas swooped in late in the game and convinced four-star athlete Daje Johnson (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) to back out of his pledge to TCU in January.

Why the last-second push? The 5-foot-9, 180-pound speedster can do a little bit of everything for the Longhorns as a running back, receiver, cornerback or kick returner.

HornsNation sat down with Pflugerville Hendrickson coach Chip Killian to get his take on the roles Johnson can play and the impact he can make at Texas.


HornsNation: The Texas coaches say Daje could be a running back or a receiver. What advice do you have for using him in UT's offense?

Chip Killian: Get him the ball. Get him the ball and get him the ball in space. I watch a lot of UT's practices because it's close and coach Brown is gracious enough to let high school coaches pretty much have carte blanche. All I've got to do is make a call and I can go to practices and sit in meetings. They're great with that. So I've got to see them a lot these last two of three years kind of evolve.

Where Daje fits in that crew, just get him the ball. From talking with coach [Bryan] Harsin, they want to get it to him in space. Line up in a tight slot or a wide slot. He's very similar to D.J. Monroe, but they've got to get him more than five touches a game. If not, that kid will be over there drinking Gatorade and trying to pick up cheerleaders.

HN: What's the biggest adjustment he's going to face when he gets to campus?

CK: What I asked him is, if you're going to go to UT make sure they have a plan for you. When I talked to coach Harsin, I said, 'Make sure you've got a plan for him, because if he's bored or he's not getting the rock …' You've got to understand: These last two years, he averages no less than 24 touches a game, and upwards of 35 touches.

HN: How do you think he'll handle getting a much smaller workload to start his college career?

CK: One of the best things that [Manny] Diaz does down there at UT is, when he has his first meeting with his linebackers he says, 'Take all your stars off and throw them in the trash can. Because none of that matters now.' Four-star, five-star, three-star, doesn't matter. Let's go back to work. You start over. But when you've got a back like Daje who's a 30-touch-a-game kid … I mean, if he walks on the 40 Acres and he's not returning kicks as a true freshman, I'll be shocked. Put him and Monroe back there and let 'em go -- they don't have anyone better.

HN: Is Daje a highly motivated kid, the kind who wants to go steal someone's job when he joins the program?

CK: Yeah, he's a competitor. That's the one thing I found out about him this year when he was the guy. His junior year, [Texas Tech running back] Kenny Williams was the guy. There were several times this year when he said, 'Give me the ball, coach. I want the rock.' And you don't expect that out of Daje -- he's kind of a California cool kid, always chilling with a smile on his face. He practices like that.

When you get in a game, that competitive level comes out. I think he'd have to do that to go to UT and play on offense. At TCU, he was going to be a defensive guy and a star as their boundary corner. And he flips that to go to Texas and be in a stable. He's got to have the confidence to say, 'I'm going to go in there and play.'

HN: You mentioned Daje's switch from TCU to Texas. How hectic were those final weeks before he flipped his commitment?

CK: Being a little more on the outside looking in, I think that coach Brown did a good job. When you're the University of Texas or you're Oklahoma or one of those prestige schools, you can come in and drop a bomb late and steal kids like that. They did it a lot this year. Mack Brown did a great job of selling Daje and coach [Major] Applewhite did a great job of recruiting. It was crazy. The Twitter was going nuts and the message boards were going nuts.

I've got a pretty good relationship with the guy who recruits Daje for TCU, Trey Haverty. I saw him more than my wife sometimes. They recruited that kid for more than a year. To lose him like that has got to suck. We'll see what the future holds. It's not going to be about what position he ends up at, but how successful he becomes. Does he get lost in the depth chart or stand out? That's what we'll have to wait and see. But UT did a really good job of coming in late and recruiting him late.

HN: Did you get any sense of what took Texas so long and why they didn't want to take him sooner?

CK: This is just my opinion: I think if they would've been on him earlier, they wouldn't have had a problem. But he got a lot of offers. That's the luxury of being Texas, I guess. Texas A&M and Oklahoma tried to come in late on him once things started shifting. I don't know what kept them off of him.

I don't know if [Dorial] Green-Beckham rolling out caused them to jump back on Daje, and I don't know where Daje fits on their charts. Daje is not a receiver. You can teach him to be one, but you'd have to teach him a lot and coach [Darrell] Wyatt will have to get on him about running routes and doing all the things polished receivers can do.

HN: So for that reason, you'd start him out at running back and try to flex him out and run him in the slot?

CK: Yeah, I think they'll move him all over. They'll have to have a package for him like they do Monroe. It's just got to be more extensive. Heck, if you want to get in the Wildcat formation and snap it to him, we did it and he'd take it to the house. Snap it to him and you'll be surprised. And he can throw the rock, too. He's just one of those guys. Snap it to him and get out of the way.

HN: Fozzy Whittaker was the guy who ran the wild for Texas, and he's gone. Do you think Daje should have a shot at that spot?

CK: I'm telling you, that's the guy. I mean, TCU was doing it. They'd already planned it. He was recruited as a DB and was going to be the starting boundary corner. And then they kept watching tape, and somebody on offense watched tape of him running kicks back. They watched more and said, 'We can use him too.' A guy like him is just hard to recruit.

HN: Was it tough on you to see Daje flip his commitment? How did you feel about his decommitment?

CK: I felt bad. That's the way it is, but I felt bad for TCU because they'd established a relationship at this school and I thought they did a great job recruiting him and worked hard to recruit him. Not that UT didn't, because once UT puts their eyes on you, and once they get you on an official visit, come on. TCU can show him a lot, but it's still not DKR. For a 17-year-old kid who grew up here, and you're going up to Mack Brown's office to talk to him? Come on.

HN: How excited are you to watch him play this fall since he's staying so close to home?

CK: Oh, I can't wait. It's going to be fun. I don't get to go to as many games, but with him there -- and I think he'll play as a true freshman -- it'll be exciting. I like the kid. It's fun to watch kids like him grow up.