Hunter Johnson understood that taking one step back would mean taking several steps forward.
There was no denying that Northwest’s starting quarterback for 2015 could contribute to the varsity in 2014. Head coach Bill Poe and his staff liked Johnson at either wide receiver or safety. However, Poe kept thinking of the big picture
After Jesse Dummer finished his senior year, who was going to take over the offense? Poe liked Johnson (6-1, 180) for that role.
To do that, Poe sent Johnson back to the junior varsity so he could take over running the offense and get used to playing quarterback. The move was justified because Johnson wasn’t seeing much time on the field.
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“Leading into this, there was a very good possibility of him winding up and being the guy,” Poe said. “I knew he was the right one to lead. It was just a matter of fine-tuning things. He understands the technical parts of this offense. I’ve watched him grow into the role. Hunter is a good enough athlete with speed and versatility. He’s going to be valuable for us.”
That’s a pretty high level of trust, considering Johnson never threw a varsity pass. It’s not unprecedented to have next year’s starter not line up under center at any point during a varsity season. But it doesn’t happen very much anymore, either.
Still, Johnson accepted the role. He would play a lot with the JV and become familiar with the system. It was a move that all parties hope has a great impact.
“Really, it all made sense,” Johnson said. “Coach Poe said he wanted me to develop into a leader. Of course, I was bummed going down to JV. But I wasn’t getting the playing time. And if I wanted to be the starting quarterback I had to do this and do as well as I could. I was going to do what was best for the program.”
What Poe identified was Johnson’s ability to draw teammates to him. His ability to take on the intangible qualities of a team leader were important for Poe when naming him the starter.
In Northwest’s spread offense, the quarterback must run a heavy amount of zone read plays. Northwest didn’t do much of that in 2014 with Drummer but will do that with Johnson. There are designs for the Texans to be a 60-40 run-to-pass type of team.
But the passing game still needs to operate at a high level. The Texans want to take advantage of mismatches. Short throws need to be completed at 85 percent. Intermediate throws should be converted at 75 percent. Deep throws are at 50 percent. If a quarterback is right around those numbers, success will take care of itself.
“I did a lot of work in everything and felt like everything set me apart,” Johnson said. “It started in the offseason. I’m not taking anything for granted. But I feel comfortable where I’m at right now. I’m spending the summer with 7-on-7 and developing a good relationship with my receivers.”