When Bobby Petrino released the much anticipated pre-spring depth chart for the Razorback backfield, Dennis Johnson’s name was not at the top of the list. Sophomore running back Ronnie Wingo’s was.
This surprised many avid Razorback fans such as myself, who have all seen Dennis Johnson meet and exceed expectations in the games that mattered last year. In a previous article, I documented how Dennis is the second best running back in the SEC when it comes to running against the nation’s top rushing defenses. His rushing average against those teams was 6.1 yards per carry. Remember the Florida game? In that one his performance was surreal with 107 yards on 7.6 yards per carry.
There could be a wide array of possible reasons for how the early depth chart was structured by Bobby Petrino. Was it to motivate Johnson? Petrino mentioned in a recent press conference that he was disappointed with how Johnson seemed to let injuries affect his performance too often.
Was it to reassure Wingo that he will play an important part of our offense considering that the carries were spread so thin last year? Ronnie Wingo, Jr is an impressive specimen of physical acumen and also had a good year in 2009. But given his limited number of carries he still has some things to prove in order to maintain a grasp on that early No. 1 spot.
The message board rumor factories even attributed Johnson’s low position on the depth chart as a result of his prior work ethic in practices.
Whatever the reason that Johnson was not listed at the top, he has more than risen to the occasion in spring football—outperforming all other backs, including those who weigh more, lift more, and run faster.
In last Saturday’s scrimmage, Johnson ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on only seven attempts.
On Wednesday, he had multiple runs of 10-plus yards and rattled off a TD run of over 50 yards in which he broke a tackle and evaded three defenders, according to Brandon Marcello.
So far this spring, the message that Dennis Johnson has been sending is that actions speak louder than words, or pre-spring depth charts.