Anyone that goes by the moniker of “The Franchise” brings a fair amount of scrutiny and expectation with them. That was certainly the case for touted safety Jaquan Johnson. A charismatic personality, players couldn’t help but ball out for a player who went about his business the right way. Playmaker, leader and mostly a stand-up guy, Jaquan Johnson brought all of that with him as a Miami Hurricane. Never out-worked, and rarely out of place, Johnson served as the face of Miami’s secondary for a majority of his collegiate career.
Today in our Senior Profile Series, we reflect on the career of strong safety Jaquan Johnson. Leader. Playmaker. Miami Hurricane.
Before the U
Everyone has at least heard of Johnson at one time or another. One of the hottest recruits in a fertile South Florida recruiting ground, Johnson drew plenty of attention based on his production in the high school ranks. Johnson was Mr. Everything for the Miami Killian Cougars. The accolades read as: 3x First Team All-State, 4x First Team All-Dade County and US Army All-American. Johnson’s senior season ended with a stat line of 72 tackles, five interceptions and six all-purpose return TDs. A blend of great instincts and athleticism to make a play on passes, it seemed as though every time the ball was up for grabs, Johnson somehow managed to come down with the rock. Most of his fame came as a safety, but Johnson spent a fair amount of time rushing and catching the ball for the Cougars as an underclassman.
He’s probably not the fastest player on the field most days, but his ability to set up blocks and weave through traffic on returns is reminiscent of Cane legend Ed Reed. If we’re drawing comparisons to Reed, it means that Johnson was a special talent.
As you can imagine, plenty of schools were vying for the services of the safety prospect. Johnson held offers from the big names like Clemson, LSU, USC, Texas and, of course, Miami. 247 Sports viewed Johnson as a four-star prospect, but that didn’t consider his value to a program justice.
Miami may have offered Johnson a position back in 2013, but The Franchise didn’t make a commitment until he finished exploring all of his options. Finally, in 2014, UM fans received the commitment they were waiting for — Jaquan Johnson gave his verbal pledge to play for the University of Miami.
Life as a Cane
Even with all the accolades entering his freshman season with the Canes, Johnson still needed to take his time to get used to the jump from high school to the standard of the U. Working primarily on special teams, Johnson dipped his toes into the madness of ACC football. In year one, Johnson got limited snaps at safety, spending most of his time on the coverage teams. He was able to finish with 26 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. So much for easing him into the college life.
Johnson would jump into the waters with both feet as a sophomore in the 2016 season. “The Franchise” played in every game that season and earned five starts. With the do-it-all nature of his game, Johnson made plays at every level of the field. From screen to draw to deep pass, you can bet that No. 4 was going to be in the picture in some form. Johnson’s sophomore season concluded with 38 total tackles, three tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a QB hurry. Considering that Johnson was playing behind adynamic safety pairing in Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter, there was plenty of optimism regarding what Johnson would do as a starter at the position.
Those premonitions of what was to come came true in the 2017 season. Reunited with fellow Miami Killian teammate Sheldrick Redwine, who made the move to free safety, they once again formed a formidable duo in the back half of the defense. With game experience from his past two seasons, Johnson thrived in his role as starting strong safety. His numbers — 96 total tackles, three TFL, a sack, four PBUs, a QB hurry and three forced fumbles — backed up the stellar play of one of the most promising players in the nation. As Johnson went, so did the Hurricanes’ defense, climbing up the rankings. His performance as a starter earned him Second Team All-ACC honors from Sports Illustrated, as well as second-team honors from the ACC.
The 2018 season may have been a disappointment for the team overall, but it’s not for a lack of effort from the standout safety. Johnson missed a pair of games due to a hamstring injury in the middle of the season, but rounded back into form soon after. Johnson was credited with sparking the team at halftime of the FSU game, giving a riveting speech that helped motivate Miami to overcome a 20-point deficit to their most fierce rivals. With the final home game on Saturday, Johnson has accounted for 69 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, an interception, and a FF in his final lap of college.
More than being a franchise player, Johnson has been the heartbeat of the Canes’ defense. A tone-setter, that led by example and asked those who lined up with him for much of the same. Johnson will move on to the pros and have a similar impact to what he’s accomplished as a Hurricane. So before senior day, we take this time to appreciate the college career of a man that truly embodied what it means to be all about the U!
Salute to Jaquan!