We’ve touched a couple times recently on what, to me, might be the biggest development of the season so far for Dan Mullen’s football team – the potential return of Malcolm Johnson.
Mullen called the sophomore questionable on Monday, so he may not be able to play this weekend at Kentucky, but he should be back soon, whether it’s in Lexington or back in Starkville next Saturday.
A converted receiver, the big-bodied, but-still-fast tight end brings something to the offense the Bulldogs just don’t have right now. In addition to his reliable hands over the middle, Johnson is a down-field threat, as well as big target in the red zone and on the goal line.
MSU has plenty of talented receivers, but not many for either of those purposes.
One of the less-talked-about, but just as important skills of Johnson is something we haven’t seen Mullen do much of since he was at Florida: the shovel pass to a tight end lined up in the backfield. He used to do it with Aaron Hernandez (now a tight end for the New England Patriots) when he was with the Gators, and we saw the formation frequently in spring practice when Johnson was healthy. But now, without the tight end to do it, we’ve only seen it once, against Troy, with lackluster results.
Make no mistake, Johnson was supposed to be a big part of MSU’s offense before he was hurt so close to the start of the season. Once he’s fully healthy and back into playing shape, those plans will be able to come to fruition. Whether it’s this week, the next or even later, his return will be both significant and impactful.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to his coaches and teammates.
Head coach Dan Mullen:
It’s huge. We’ve gotta see what he can do. He hasn’t done any live stuff yet. He’s still got some recovery time left then he’s got the adaptation. He hasn’t played football since last April. I think it’ll be a slower process. Its not like, just get back in there and go. He’s gotta get himself – basically his training camp is starting now. Everybody else is halfway through the season. It’s huge for us because he is a playmaker and tough to match up on.
Offensive coordinator Les Koenning:
[Getting him back is] extremely important. I think he was a big part of our offense last year. He’s proven that. We just gotta get him healthy and ready to go.
Depends if he’s healthy, that’s the big question. When he comes back and how he reacts to practice, I think it’s really big.
Junior running back LaDarius Perkins:
Malcolm Johnson, he means a lot to our offense. Then we can spread the ball more. With Green in there, he’s the starter, but Malcolm can come in and just pick up where Green left off and we not miss a beat. We’ve just got a lot of talent on offense, skill-wise. Then with Malcolm Johnson on the field, it’s a big threat
Senior cornerback Darius Slay:
He’s very tough to cover. I had a tough time covering him last year. He’s more like a receiver/slot guy, then he can go down and block. He’s got good speed, he runs the best routes and he’s got the best hands on the team. There aren’t too many balls he’s gonna drop. It’s gonna be hard to guard him.
Sophomore receiver Jameon Lewis:
He brings a lot of juice to the offense, you know. He hasn’t played the last couple games, but he has a loud mouth. He makes sure that everybody’s on their toes. If you’re doing bad, he’s gonna let you know. If you’re doing good, he’s gonna praise you. He brings a lot of juice. He’s a playmaker. We’re glad to have him back.
He’s a mismatch type of guy. He’s a tight end, but he’s really a receiver, so he can do a lot of things that most tight ends can’t do.
Senior cornerback Corey Broomfield:
Malcolm is an interesting guy. Freshman year, he ran scout team for us at receiver. Me and Banks got chewed out a lot over Malcolm. He’s not your average tight end, because he’s really a receiver with a bigger body. He’s gonna make some great plays on the ball, he’s really good around the ball. He’s physical.