Posted: 8:00 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013
Hometown: Chalfont, Pa
High School: Central Bucks South HS
Year: RS Freshman
Matt Johns was kind of a scrawny kid coming out of the Philadelphia area. He was recruited by many Mid-Atlantic schools including Maryland and Penn State, plus Boston College. For a 3 star prospect, ranked the #80 QB in the nation by ESPN and #55 by Scout (unranked by Rivals), the offer list seems a bit short. At the time, he was 6'4" and 190 pounds, which is pretty thin. He far from frail, and it was clear that his frame could handle some more muscle.
There was no doubt that Johns was going to need a redshirt to put on some muscle. Right now, he's 6'5" and 205 pounds, which is still thin, but much better. For comparison, Matt Schaub is also 6'5" and he's almost 240 pounds, which is about right for an NFL QB. In other words, Johns still has some room to grow. But, he's still just a redshirt freshman, so he has time. Also, Johns is a better athlete than Schaub ever was, so he doesn't want to get too big. Johns has some speed and quickness, especially for such a tall guy, and he can't afford to lose that.
As a QB, Johns' strength is his accuracy. When his footwork is right, he's got very good arm strength and is capable of making every throw in the playbook. His problem, at least in HS, was that he had a tendency to rush his throws, often off his back foot. When setting his feet properly, his mechanics are solid, with a quick delivery and consistent release point. In HS, he could get away with the back foot throws more often than not. In college, he won't be able to.
Johns throws a very good deep ball, with good touch and plenty of zip. He's a prototypical west-coast guy, who can hammer a defense with short, touch throws and then hit them for a 50 yard bomb. He also has a pretty good pocket presence, especially considering his age. When he was settled, he would step up in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. But, again, at times he would rush things and make poor decisions. This type of thing is not uncommon for HS QBs, because they tend to get away with it.
If Johns was being asked to step in right now, the Hoos would likely be in trouble. Johns simply isn't ready. Certainly not from a physical standpoint and probably not from a mental standpoint. But Johns is the 3rd on the depth chart, which is ok. He'll develop his body as well as his mechanics and his knowledge of the offense. With his classmate Greyson Lambert ahead of him on the depth chart, he may not be in line for game snaps for a while. But by next year, he should be ready if his numbers was called.
Johns does not have the athleticism that David Watford has, but he's much closer than Lambert is. If the offense was built around Watford's skills, Johns could be a better backup option than Lambert. Again, probably not for this year, because Johns simply isn't ready. But next year, assuming Watford remains the starter, Johns could be in line for backup snaps if Watford were to miss a play here and there. It would require less change to the offense. If Watford were to miss more than just a few plays, Lambert would likely still be asked to step in. Of course, if Lambert were to win the starting job at any point, Johns could still be in the same position. He doesn't have quite the accuracy or consistency that Lambert has, but he's closer than Watford.
Johns is sort of a mix of the two QBs the Hoos have. Watford is ahead of him mostly due to his experience and Lambert is simply a more advanced pocket passer than Johns. With some more work in the weight room and the QB coaches, Johns could push for snaps next year.