As a freshman, Jacobe Johnson was just hoping to earn varsity playing time. By midseason, he was starting at cornerback for Mustang High School’s football squad.
This off-season, Johnson is being touted as one of the state’s premier young defensive players. And his phenomenal athleticism is expected to be utilized on offense at receiver, too.
“Jacobe is so naturally gifted,” Mustang head coach Lee Blankenship said. “We look for him to continue to learn the game and grow this season.”
Johnson’s defensive talent only is scratching the surface, yet it has caught the attention of some of the country’s top Division I programs.
Assistant coach Dan Hammerschmidt, who tutors safeties at Oklahoma State University, offered Johnson a full scholarship this spring.
The University of Oklahoma’s Brian Odom, assistant coach in charge of the Sooner inside linebackers, quickly followed by also offering Johnson a scholarship.
“OU has been one of my favorite schools growing up,” an excited Johnson said. “It was crazy. … We celebrated with a cookout because I’d got that big offer.”
Since then, Johnson has received other scholarship offers from Michigan, Baylor, Texas Tech and Memphis, Blankenship said.
A video that Johnson took of himself exercising by jumping atop a brick mailbox at home during the COVID-19 lockdown became a social media hit.
Blankenship said, “One of the coaches from Oklahoma State called and said, ‘Hey coach, we saw this video that the young man you had told us about had put on social media. We checked out his film, and we’ve decided we want to pull the trigger and offer him.’
“They told me they were reluctant to offer a kid that young, but they also saw so much potential in him. So they went ahead and pulled the trigger.”
Sam Dollar, MHS’ defensive coordinator, explained what makes Johnson so special.
“Jacobe is fast and naturally gifted in his athletic ability,” Dollar said of the 6-foot-3 Johnson and his 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
“He really wants to succeed, and he’s a great competitor. The only thing I can see him improving on is his overall knowledge of the game.
“He said himself he would like to improve on his technique and fundamentals of playing corner. His goal is to be a lock-down corner and be able to cover any wide receiver in the state. Or the country for that matter.”
Johnson, who began starting at midseason for the 7-4 Broncos, finished with 20 tackles, an interception, three passes defensed, a sack and one fumble caused.
As his reputation grew, opponents didn’t appear to throw as often to his side.
BACK ON FIELD
The Broncos had been doing lifting and conditioning earlier in June. But since then, the team has been reviewing schemes as players like Johnson were coached where to line up and what to do in their assignments.
Dollar said the players now are on the field and executing the knowledge of everything they’ve been taught.
That is especially true for Johnson in his new duties at receiver.
Offensive coordinator Cody McDaniel is excited about being able to utilize him in the Broncos’ multiple attack.
“Jacobe is a very talented player that we definitely are looking to use in all phases of the game!” McDaniel said.
Mustang averaged 33.2 points per game last season but graduated most of its skilled players and returns only three starters.
Johnson will need to be particularly productive on defense with just four starters returning.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
Gaines spoke about the intelligence Johnson displays, making him the total package with his physical attributes.
“As a freshman, he was able to grasp the defense and get a feel for what we were trying to accomplish as a team,” Gaines said. “He has made a tremendous amount of growth.
“We forget he was in the eighth grade learning how to be a player (just over) a year ago. Now, he is in one of the toughest districts, competing at a high level every day.”
Gaines anticipates that Johnson will be a leader in the secondary during his sophomore season.
“Jacobe is a natural leader,” Gaines said. “He lets his play speak for itself and is really hard on himself.
“Jacobe, in my opinion, is one of the best players in the state. People saw him as a DB (defensive back), which at 6-foot-3 with 4.4-4.5 speed is awesome. But he is dangerous with the ball in his hands as well.”
Blankenship thinks Johnson can be a key two-way performer. The fact that he became a starting guard in varsity basketball last season and ended as both the team’s second-leading scorer (16.4) and rebounder (5.4) only underscores his immense abilities.
“We will use him in several ways,” Blankenship said. “He is a dynamic player, and we will find creative ways to maximize his athleticism.”