When Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt announced in 2019 that senior wide receiver Brandon Johnson would be redshirting, I thought it was a perplexing move.
You don’t typically see senior wide receivers that have seen significant action during their careers take a redshirt.
But that’s what Johnson chose to do last season. And it’s because Pruitt convinced him that he could be a bigger asset for the Vols in 2020 than he could be in 2019.
With Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, and Josh Palmer on the roster last season, Johnson was going to be the fourth wide receiver at best.
Callaway and Jennings moved on after 2019, leaving Johnson as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Palmer in 2020.
After the first game of the season, it’s clear that Pruitt’s decision to redshirt Johnson last season wasn’t only the right move, it was absolutely brilliant.
Johnson immediately made an impact for Tennessee in the Vols’ season-opening win against South Carolina, catching three passes for 73 yards (including an impressive 33-yard reception).
“How in the WORLD did Brandon Johnson grab that?!?”
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 27, 2020
On Monday, during a virtual media session with reporters, Pruitt couldn’t say enough good things about Johnson.
“Brandon’s a guy that hasn’t missed any reps during camp,” said Pruitt. “He’s been at every practice. He’s a guy that has some experience to him, being a fifth-year guy who has graduated.”
“It doesn’t surprise me. Brandon can play every position and he’s also a good special teams player. He’s an instinctive guy and he’s a good leader amongst the group. Anything Brandon does doesn’t surprise me.”
I think it’s fairly obvious that Johnson is going to be an extremely important part of the Vols’ offense in 2020. He brings plenty of experience and leadership to the field, which is something Tennessee needs at the wide receiver position after losing Callaway and Jennings.
Pruitt could’ve easily buried Johnson on the depth chart and barely used him in 2019. Instead, he had the foresight to save Johnson for 2020.
By the way, that’s not something that happens unless there’s a tremendous culture in place. Johnson could’ve easily refused. He could’ve decided he didn’t want to come back to Tennessee after graduating and not playing as a senior.
Pruitt is clearly building something special on Rocky Top. And he’s doing it by building a great culture and making savvy personnel moves.
Featured image via Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports