Johnson Fired up to be a Bear

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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted Jan 16, 2013
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2014 BearInsider.com


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Spend a minute talking with Christian Brothers offensive tackle Vincent Johnson and you'll know you're talking to a young man who knows what he wants and where to find it.

The 3 star OT committed to Iowa State in August but with an offer from Cal -a program that met all his main criteria- top academics, great facilities, a style of play that suits his skill set and a staff he's comfortable with, it was an offer he couldn't refuse as Johnson committed to Cal after last weekend's unofficial visit to Cal.

"We took a tour of Cal's athletic facilities, which are amazing," said Johnson. "Just seeing the field and the high performance center and all the work that went into making Cal the school it is was amazing. It made me feel like Cal would be a great fit for me.

"We saw a lot of the buildings on campus and libraries, too. They have something like 33 libraries and each one's bigger than the last.

"It's going to be great to have so many resources at my fingertips and such a strong support system at Cal."

If you get the idea that academics are important to Johnson, you'd be right, with the 6-5/255 lineman sporting a 3.2 gpa with his challenging schedule, including a pair of AP classes this semester, including macro-economics.

"Coming in with those credits along with doing summer bridge will defintiely be nice to get me off to a good head start," said Johnson.

"Cal is the number one public university in the nation and that's a big thing for me. A degree from Cal is top-notch.

"Once you have that degree, you're set for the rest of your life."

Another area that appealed to Johnson is the new Bear Raid offense Cal head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin are installing at Cal -a system very familiar to Johnson at Christian Brothers.

"The coaching staff uses a system similar to what we ran at Christian Brothers," said Johnson. I guess they call that the Bear Raid at Cal.

"I'm a firm believer in the Tony Franklin system. Once I get to Cal, I just think I'll succeed in that offense, which is big for me.

"First of all, you should really be tall, lean and athletic. Athletic's the big thing because their offensive line, ideally they'll work them out into space against smaller, more athletic guys. So you have to be able to move and be strong and athletic enough to create holes for guys that are trying to work around you. Once that happens, a lot of big plays end up happening off of that."

Though Johnson enjoys a wide-open passing offense, rest assured he knows the value of a strong run game and how effective it can be in opening up passing lanes -an important twist to Franklin and Dykes' version of the Air Raid offense- a more balanced approach than the more pass-oriented Air Raid offense Dykes learned under Mike Leach at Texas Tech before refining it to their current explosive version run at Louisiana Tech in Dykes' three seasons as head coach there.

"The passing game works better when you run the ball and with Coach Dykes and Coach Franklin running their system, they realize that," said Johnson. "You have to run the ball if you want to succeed, I don't care how you cut it.

"The running game is football. You watch teams like Notre Dame and Alabama and the reason they're going to national championship games is because they run the ball well.

"Honestly, if you run the ball well, you will succeed. It's just football."

Beyond looking for players that fit their style of play, Cal's new staff is looking for a profile of players that are the full spectrum of a student athlete.

That message was not lost on Johnson, who firmly believes in exactly what Cal's selling.

"Cal's looking for the whole package in a player," said Johnson. "Not just someone who can succeed on the field but in the classroom and in life.

"You look at program like Stanford, who have proven that you can win consistently with players that are also strong students. It's clear you don't have to be just a pure athlete. You have to be the right kind of athlete and person to be at Cal. That was the big thing that Coach Dykes reminds us of.

"It made me feel really good about where Cal's going from this point on and I'm just really excited to be a Bear."

The All-League tackle was able to get to know his new position coach at Cal, offensive line coach Zach Yenser and likes what he's seen in the young coach so far.

"Coach Yenser's a really knowledgeable guy," said Johnon. "He really knows this offense inside and out and knows what kind of athlete it takes to run it. He played in a similar offense, himself.

"He showed me some plays the other day and the terminology and all was very similar to what we play, which was big for me.

"The transistion from a high school athlete to a collegiate athlete definitely won't be easy but having a head start will definitely help out.

"He just seems like one of those coaches that really wants you to succeed if you really want to succeed yourself. I like that.

"I also had the chance to sit down with Coach Dykes and talk about the program and where we want to be next year and again, the goals that Coach Dykes and the program have are what drew me to Cal."

With his size and athleticm, Johnson would seem to be a candidate to play either guard or tackle at Cal but so far, that decision seems to have not yet been made. 

"They haven't said if I'm likely to play either tackle or guard," said Johnson. "But I like to think of myself as a versatile guy.

"I haven't played much offensive guard in high school but I know if the team needed me to do it, I'd do it instantly. If they wanted me to play center, I'd be over there snapping the ball.

"You have to be a versatile guy to make it at the next level and I think I could either be a good tall guard or an effective tackle. I'm happy wherever I am on the playing field. Just seeing playing time is what I want."

A quick learner, Johnson didn't need to be prompted in the lexicon of Cal football as he signed off the interview.

It's been great talking with you," said Johnson. "Have a great night and Go Bears!"

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