Resiliency, an attribute that is vital when fulfilling dreams and aspirations. Bowling Green's Matt Johnson knows about resiliency. Two seasons ago, Johnson was sitting on the sidelines in crutches, nursing a serious hip injury. An injury so intense, Johnson had to learn how to walk all over again. In sports we have seen how injuries can derail careers.
Instead of rolling over, Matt Johnson used his injury to better himself as football player. Watching on the sidelines, Johnson depicted the Bowling Green offense. Johnson would examine the defense, comprehend the play and then mentally plan how to attack that particular play successfully. In attendance at all film sessions, meetings, and practices was Matt Johnson. This type of determination and resiliency translates into success on the field.
Coming back this past season, Johnson certainly experienced his fair share of football triumph. After leading the country in passing yardage for most of the year, Johnson finished the season throwing for 4,946 passing yards. That total was enough to break not only Bowling Green records, but also MAC records. His passing yard total broke Ben Roethsliberger's conference record, and his 46 touchdown passes (second in the nation) are a MAC record as well passing up BGSU alum Omar Jacobs. His fantastic season was capped with hardware, named 2015 MAC Offensive Player of the Year and voted to the 2015 All-MAC First Team.
Even these impressive statistics weren't enough to convince NFL scouts that Johnson is worthy of playing professionally. Johnson's deep ball is what has caught the eyes of NFL scouts.
Dino Babers had the Falcons airing it out quite often last season. Johnson excelled running an offense that loved the deep ball. No one else in the country had more yards or touchdowns on throws 20 yards or more. On passes 20 yards or more Johnson threw for 20 touchdowns and 1,698 yards. Matt Johnson attempted 107 downfield passes, only once was his deep ball intercepted. His ability to hit receivers in stride is setting him aside from other quaterbacks in this upcoming draft class.
Despite all of Johnson's strengths, some areas of his game are significantly flawed. Firstly, Johnson can be knocked as an undersized QB, measured in at 5'11'' at the NFLPA Bowl. Despite the traditional, some of the best NFL quarterbacks are undersized. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 6'0'' tall, while 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year winner Russell Wilson in only 5'11''. If Matt Johnson can protect the ball and continue to successfully throw the deep ball, NFL teams won't knock him for his size.
Matt Johnson: Heisman Trophy Candidate or Just Another System Guy?
Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is on pace for a history-making season statistically, but will it be enough to get him in the Heisman conversation?
Another weakness is the offense he played in at Bowling Green. Johnson ran a fairly simple offense under Babers. On many occasions Johnson would throw screen passes just to get the ball into the hands of playmaking wide receivers. Also he didn't have to make a ton of difficult reads.
Even with his imperfections Johnson should have enough tools to play in the league. Bruce Arians in Arizona would be an almost perfect match for him. Bruce Arians coaches to Johnson's strength as he likes to air it out on offense. Chip Kelly and the 49ers might be another place Johnson would thrive. Kelly runs offensive sets similar to the college game. His offense is fast and is built around getting the ball out quickly. Kelly runs a QB-friendly system that is high-octane, similar to what Johnson ran at Bowling Green. San Francisco is not as good of a fit for Johnson as Arizona, but playing under Kelly would not hurt him.
Johnson certainly is not the guy to be an NFL starter from the beginning of his career, but he could be developed into a productive NFL quarterback. Some believe Johnson will get his shot on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Not many have the determination or skills that Matt Johnson possess, skipping over him would be a mistake.