FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman Dominique Johnson came to Arkansas to play running back and now he’s showing the coaches what he’s capable of there.
But for one day in preseason he was moved to tight end because of low numbers there. However, that day true freshman AJ Green was injured so Johnson moved back to running back and Sam Pittman is pleased for that. Against Georgia Southern he led the team with 72 yards and a touchdown on just five carries.
“If he keeps running like that I promise you he’s going to get more,” Pittman said. “I don’t know what happened to him. I wish I could sit here and had the answer. We moved him to tight end, he got his chance to go back the next day, and he said, ‘Hey, I’m going to show you that you don’t want to move me. That I’m too valuable here.’ And he has done that.
“I never thought, and this is not disrespect to him, I never thought, ‘Hey, when we put him in the game I’m going to be overly excited that he’s in there.’ But I’m excited. I mean, this guy is a good running back. Tough, good blocker. It just goes to show you sometimes you’ve got to wait your turn. Extra carries probably could come as we continue to go on.”
Johnson answered the question following Tuesday’s practice about what has happened since he returned to running back.
“Moving to tight end, it really put a fire under me because I wanted to come in and play running back because running back’s all I’ve been playing,” Johnson said. “So running back is what I wanted to play. Some them moving me to tight end made me just want to go harder at running back to show them I’m an actual running back.”
Johnson has scored a touchdown in each game this season. That is something he also talked about on Tuesday.
“The opportunities I’ve been given, it feels good to score a touchdown every game with the reps I’ve been getting,” Johnson said. “Being able to be the big back in the red zone, it feels good knowing they trust me to put me in there to get that touchdown in the red zone.”
Offensive lineman Ty Clary loves blocking for Johnson and watching him gain yards.
“Yeah, I think Bumper would say the same thing, it’s fun to watch him run too because he – a lot of the other backs will try to run past you or run through you, but Dom, it’s kind of like he’s looking for contact out there,” Clary said. “He wants to run you over.”
On the season, Johnson has 15 carries for 132 yards and three touchdowns. The former Crowley (Texas) High School standout chose the Hogs over Missouri and others. He will get to return home to face Texas A&M on Saturday in AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“Yes sir, it’s pretty exciting to go back home and be able to play at the Dallas Cowboys stadium,” Johnson said. “I live maybe 20 minutes from there. It’s going to be exciting to have my family there and hopefully to come out with a win.”
Johnson played some youth league football at the stadium, but knows this will be different.
” Yeah, it’s going to be a completely different atmosphere,” Johnson said. “I’m honestly looking forward to it. I’m really excited to be able to play with my teammates at a real college level with real fans against a ranked team — another ranked team — and try to take them down. I feel like it’s going to be fun.”
One thing Johnson was unable to do though is get all the tickets he needed for this game. Each player gets four.
“I mean, it’s been hard trying to get some tickets for this game because some players are from Texas, so more players need tickets, too,” Johnson said. “On top of that, we’re playing in the Cowboys’ stadium, so a lot of parents and a lot of people want to travel to the Cowboys’ stadium because they haven’t been there. Mostly everybody is using their tickets, so it’s been hard to try to get tickets from other people because everybody wants to come to this game because it’s such a big game.”
The Hogs have a four-man rotation at running back which keeps everyone fresh. Johnson talked about sharing the load with Trelon Smith, Rocket Sanders and Green.
“We have different packages for each back,” Johnson said. “I mean, it can be a period of time where you’re sitting on the sideline, and somebody else may be in the game. But you’ve got to stay ready at all times because you never know when you’re going to go in the game.
“For me, I just stay ready at all times. We do rotate backs a lot, so you never know when you’re going to be in there. You’ve just got to stay ready at all times.”
The No. 16 Hogs and No. 7 Aggies will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and televised on CBS.