Oregon Ducks

DJ Johnson shines in first game as tight end for undermanned Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

When DJ Johnson decided to transfer from the University of Miami in 2018, the Ducks were getting a playmaker.

Johnson was a consensus four-star prospect out of high school and played in eight games as a freshman for the ACC Runner-Up Hurricanes. 

However, after sitting out the 2018 season due to transfer eligibility rules, Johnson didn't make as large of an impact as expected: he played in all 13 games totaling 14 tackles (10 solo), five tackles for loss and two sacks. Those are solid numbers but it was on limited snaps as he failed to see significant playing time.  

Then heading into his redshirt junior season, Oregon asked him to change positions to tight end. Being a team player, Johnson accepted and wanted to make the most of the opportunity. 

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Fast forward to Saturday evening, Johnson's hard work paid off as he played an integral part in No. 12 Oregon's season-opening 35-14 win over Stanford. The Ducks needed it too with multipe tight ends out for undisclosed reasons. 

The edge rusher turned tight end led the Ducks in receptions with five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown in his debut at the new position.

While Johnson put up solid numbers, he's still learning all the intricacies of the postion.

"There was always a transition with the technique of the position," explained Johnson. "Even now I'm still working on perfecting my technique." 


During the summer, Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury but the 6-foot-5 tight end was not going to allow it to stop his progress. 

"He had a pretty significant injury in the summertime, and just kept chopping wood and kept finding ways to just find work, learn the system, get healthy, and then it showed up tonight with not only with the touchdown, but with some other really significant important plays," said head coach Mario Cristobal. 

But given Johnson's elite athleticism, once he understands his assignment on the play, whether it involves getting the rock or making a block, he makes an impact.

"Once you know what you're doing it's very easy to just play fast and physical. So that's what I try to do," explained Johnson.  

Throughout camp, Johnson was running with the twos and was listed as the co-fourth string tight end on the Ducks depth chart released ahead of the contest. 

"I really wasn't working with him at all until maybe one or two days ago cause he was running with the twos mainly," said Tyler Shough. 

Johnson and Shough's natural chemistry helped make up for lost time, though.

"Honestly, we had a great feel. We've only been working with each other on routes on air and after practice and stuff like that so I wasn't really surprised on his capabilities and what he was going to do, so I was just really proud of [him]," said Shough. 

"His hard work has really paid off because going from D-end to tight end, it's a big mental switch."

Mario Cristobal echoed his quarterback's praise of the tight end's performance.

"DJ stepped up, did it in the run game, did it in the pass game, did it in protection as well. We asked a lot of a guy that was playing defense a year ago," said Cristobal.

Johnson and the Ducks will get to build on their momentum next Saturday, November 14th when Oregon travels north to take on the Washington State Cougars (1-0).