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Just days after the University of Central Florida learned star quarterback Blake Bortles would be declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft, the program also announced that stud running back Storm Johnson would also forgo his senior year to enter the draft.
Johnson made a name for himself this season for the Fiesta Bowl Champion Knights, rushing for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns, while also showing skills receiving out the backfield, posting 260 yards and three touchdowns.
The back capped off his breakout season with 124-yard, three touchdown effort in UCF’s victory over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, ultimately influencing his decision to take his talents to the NFL.
Johnson is a relatively new prospect in the sense that he’s really only had one full year as a featured back. He transferred to UCF in 2011 after one season at the University of Miami, and was forced to sit out the next season to due NCAA transfer rules.
He then played behind current Oakland Raider RB Latavius Murray on the depth chart in 2012 before finally emerging onto the scene this past season.
Despite the minimal time in the spotlight, Johnson has a world of talent and ability.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Georgia native has solid speed, can break tackles, and causes defenders to miss often with his shiftiness.
He has also developed and matured greatly in the past year after UCF head coach George O’Leary criticized Johnson for his tendency to be an east-west runner as opposed to a north-south runner.
Johnson refined his game in the offseason and became a much better north-south back with an ability to break tackles, while also using his quickness to slip past defenders.
The former Cane is fast, but that certainly isn’t his most redeeming feature; it’s his combination of quickness and power that really makes him enticing selection in the upcoming draft. Johnson picks up tough yardage and has lots of upside.
Johnson has a nice burst, cuts crisply and quickly, and exceptional field vision to make up for his lack of explosiveness.
Storm has also displayed his big-play ability in several games this past season, including a 58-yard touchdown run in Happy Valley against Penn State and a 73-yard run against Temple.
He has come up huge in the Knights biggest games of the year, turning in 117 yards against the Nittany Lions, 109 yards against Louisville, 127 yards against Temple and 124 yards against Baylor.
Even more promising is Johnson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which became a huge asset for the Knights this year, as he averaged 8.7 yards per catch. Johnson’s 79 receiving yards and touchdown reception were a game changer in UCF’s upset win over then-No. 8 Louisville early in the season.
While UCF’s dynamic RB might not be the sexiest name in the draft with names like Tre Mason, Carlos Hyde, and Andre Williams all likely to get the most attention, Johnson is certainly a solid Day 2 option for teams needing a running back.
Johnson is currently listed as the 19th best runner in the 2014 class and projected to go in the 6th round by CBS Sports.
However, depending on how Johnson does at the combine, coupled with his recent performance in the Knights BCS win over Baylor, he could be a solid NFL draft sleeper that creeps up on several teams’ boards.
Teams should also consider how little mileage there is on Johnson’s legs. He’s only played in 36 collegiate games in his career, but still has the experience of three bowl games and a conference championship under his belt.
Johnson will likely get drafted in the late 5th round or early 6th round, but it would not be surprising to see teams take a gamble and draft him earlier.
If his combination of power, agility and instincts aren’t good enough, there’s always the fact that his name is Storm.
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