Herd’s Devon Johnson on Doak Walker Watch List

Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall star running back Devon Johnson, who ran for 1,767 yards in his running back debut last season, was named today to the preseason 2015 Doak Walker Award Watch List.


There are 69 players on the list for the honor, which is presented annually to the nation’s premier running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum. The honor is named for former SMU back Doak Walker, who won the 1948 Heisman Trophy and was a three-time All-America selection.


Last week, Johnson was named as one of 80 FBS players for the Maxwell Award, which is presented to the nation’s top college football player. He was one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award last season, when he led Conference USA in rushing.


The 6-foot-1, 243-pound Johnson was chosen earlier this week as a running back on the 2015 All-C-USA Preseason Team. He was an All-C-USA first team selection following last season as well.


Johnson’s naming to the Doak Walker watch list gives the Herd six preseason mentions for national awards. Besides Johnson on the Maxwell and Walker lists, offensive tackle Clint Van Horn is on the Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award lists, and linebacker D.J. Hunter also is on the Lombardi list.


Johnson, a senior from Richlands, Va., was moved to running back in August camp prior to last season by Coach Doc Holliday and his staff after Johnson had previous stints at linebacker and tight end. Despite missing one game and significant portions of others, Johnson gave Marshall a new balance on offense with his bullish rushing.


Johnson – nicknamed “Rockhead” by Herd players and coaches -- was moved from tight end primarily to provide protection in the passing game. By season’s end of a Conference USA championship year for the No. 22/23 Herd (13-1), Johnson had 10 games of 100 or more rushing yards, including a school-record 272 yards in an Oct. 25 victory over Florida Atlantic.


He also had games of 198 yards at Old Dominion and 199 yards against Rice. Forty-eight of his 206 rushes were for 10 or more yards, and he had 14 carries of 30 or more yards. Johnson’s longest run was a 75-yarder in a crucial late-season victory at UAB. He also had six pass receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns – and didn’t allow a sack in picking up blitzes.


His 8.58 yards per carry topped all FBS running backs who carried more than 150 times during the season. Johnson ranked fifth nationally with 135.9 yards per game, and ran for 17 touchdowns, including a season-high four TDs in the win over FAU. Johnson’s 1,767 rushing yards ranks No. 2 in Herd history for a single season (Chris Parker, 1,833 in 1995) and is the school mark in Marshall’s major-college seasons.


Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon won the 2014 Doak walker Award.


Ten semifinalists for the Walker Award will be announced Nov. 17, with three finalists named on Nov. 24. The Doak Walker winner will be revealed on Dec. 10 on the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN. The award winner will receive the honor at a banquet in Dallas in February 2016.


Johnson and the Herd will open the 2015 season on Sunday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day weekend) at 3 p.m. against Purdue at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (FS1 telecast). The Boilermakers will be the first Big Ten Conference football team to visit Huntington.

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