Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

Charlotte 49ers QB Matt Johnson trying to build on freshman success

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/30/16/28/K4N2D.Em.138.jpeg|360
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Matt Johnson, the Charlotte 49ers’ starting quarterback from Newton, enters his sophomore season trying to build on the successes of a nearly-3,000-yard freshman year.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/30/16/28/ZCT87.Em.138.jpeg|217
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Aaron Curry, is a graduate assistant for the Charlotte 49ers football team. The Charlotte 49ers kicked off their football season with the team's first practice with cool temperatures and under clear skies Wednesday July 30, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/30/16/28/5WnjK.Em.138.jpeg|441
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte 49ers players Casey Perry, #70, Trent Bostick, #81 and Matt Johnson, #8 sprint to their next practice station Wednesday morning. The Charlotte 49ers kicked off their football season with the team's first practice with cool temperatures and under clear skies Wednesday July 30, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/30/16/28/1aBGwG.Em.138.jpeg|188
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/30/16/28/bebzr.Em.138.jpeg|161
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Brad Lambert (center raised hand), Charlotte 49ers head coach, calls the team together near the beginning of practice Wednesday morning. The Charlotte 49ers kicked off their football season with the team's first practice with cool temperatures and under clear skies Wednesday July 30, 2014.

Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert recently summed up where he thought sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson most needs to improve this season.

“Sliding, getting down,” Lambert said with a laugh.

Lambert was only half joking. Johnson’s freshman season was, by most measures, a success: he accounted for 2,999 yards in total offense (2,581 yards passing, 418 rushing) as Charlotte went 5-6 in its inaugural season of football.

But many of those rushing plays ended with Johnson – at a sturdy 6-foot-3, 230 pounds – lowering his shoulder and taking on a defender (or defenders) rather than hitting the ground safely with a slide.

Johnson’s physical style of play, while crowd-pleasing and probably worth a few extra yards on the stat sheet, usually had Lambert and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen cringing.

“He’s a 230-pound, tough kid,” said Mullen after Wednesday’s first preseason practice. “Sometimes we’re wired in certain ways. But I want the quarterback position to be a distributor, not a playmaker. He’s not Superman back there. His job is to get the ball to guys who are Superman: the running backs running the ball, the wideouts catching it. I don’t want Matt doing either.”

Does Johnson agree, and is he willing to change? Absolutely.

“Playing quarterback takes a lot more than what I tried to do last season,” he said. “I need to be staying in the pocket, handing the ball off to people who can really make plays.

“I worked hard in the offseason and I’ve still got to be able to take a hit. But we’ve got guys – like Austin (Duke), Dmarjai (Devine) and Trent (Bostick) – to get the ball to downfield.”

Mullen said a quarterback’s second season is crucial. It’s time for him to learn from the freshman mistakes and to build on what worked well. Johnson did plenty of things correctly, as evidenced by nearly 3,000 yards in total offense and a completion rate of 60.1 percent.

“He’s progressing the way he should,” said Mullen, who has coached former star quarterbacks such as Riley Skinner at Wake Forest and Pat White and Geno Smith at West Virginia. “The biggest fear in Year 2 is you think you know it all and start doing things you shouldn’t. You’re ‘super quarterback’ as opposed to continuing to learn, to play through your offense, know your progressions and checkdowns. In Year 2 , you hear about some people regressing and in my opinion that’s why. So we’re keeping a close eye on that. But I love Matt’s progress.”

Johnson said his goal is for the game to slow down for him, which might seem counter-intuitive because he is directing an up-tempo, no-huddle offense.

“The more he plays, the more experience he gets, the more the game will slow down,” said Lambert. “It’s not our tempo, but how he’s processing the game and how the defense is coming at him. Our tempo won’t change, but it will come a little easier for him.”

The 2013 season asked a lot of Johnson. He was a freshman quarterback on a first-year team, often facing some of the best defenses in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision. Yet he survived.

“That’s a lot of stress,” said senior offensive guard Daniel Blitch. “The coaches told us all that we were going to have to grow up faster than we normally would. Matt did, too.

“This year he’s a lot more composed and a lot more comfortable. And he should be. He’s done well for the position he’s in.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
CharlotteObserver.com