Today we focus on two players, both who are now on offense. Because of this, one had to change his number to No. 22 since you cannot have different players wearing the same number on the field at the same time.
E.J. Johnson - Jr.
Cocoa, Florida (Cocoa HS)
6'1, 185 pounds
2013 Prediction: Reserve at Wide Receiver
Robert Gregory - Fr. (RS)
Chicago, Illinois (Simeon HS)
6'2", 211 pounds
2013 Projection: Reserve at running back
First, with Johnson, we had a vexing position move that was announced at Big Ten media Days. He is a fourth year player that has had little impact so far, but he moved from his natural position of safety, where Purdue has a lack of depth, to wide receiver, where Purdue has a ton of players. That necessitated a jersey change to No. 22 from No. 7.
When Johnson came to Purdue I was very high on him. He had the size and ball-hawking ability to become a great safety, I thought. Instead, he has only played in 13 games as a reserve, getting in nine last year with 14 tackles and a fumble recovery. I thought he would be in line to play a lot more this season, but the surprising development of Landon Feichter and Evan Feichter as reliable players from being walk-ons likely had an effect. Since Taylor Richards has the other safety spot locked down and even Austin Logan has come on as a true freshman, Johnson shifted to offense.
In high school he played sparingly as a receiver, notching six catches for 183 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He won consecutive state championships as a high schooler in Florida and even one a basketball state championship as a junior. What makes the move to receiver more surprising is that he had 11 interceptions in his final two high school seasons when Cocoa won their state titles. That is a big reason as to why I was so high on him. I had visions of him become a Stu Schweigert type safety that can play up against the run (he had 109 tackles in his final two HS seasons) as well as be a ball hawk and grab interceptions.
Gregory is another player that is sliding down the depth chart. By all accounts in camp he did well as a quarterback-now-turned-running back. In the spring he was No. 2 behind Akeem Hunt and he has been known as a punishing runner that likes contact and finishes runs well. Lately, however, he has fallen to the scout team because of the play of Brandon Cottom and Dalyn Dawkins. It also does not help that he has three other true freshmen vying for carries with him.
Last season Gregory won the Scout Team Award and in high school he was a dangerous dual threat QB. He had 1,506 yards passing with 28 TDs to go with 919 yards rushing and 15 more TDs. He lead Simeon to a Chicago Public League championship as a senior.
Both of these players were very accomplished high school players that are still trying to find a role to thrive in at Purdue.