May 24, 2024

Avery Johnson welcoming more responsibility in Wildcats’ offense

Kansas State Wildcats Football

Kansas State quarterback Avery Johnson glances over at the sideline before taking a snap in the third quarter against Baylor Saturday November 11, 2023 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Wildcats concluded spring ball last Saturday, and their quarterback believes the offense is ahead of schedule under the leadership of Conor Riley and Matt Wells.

Avery Johnson is ready to make a big splash in his first season as Kansas State’s full-time starter, after giving the fans a taste of what he’s capable of in last year’s Pop Tarts Bowl as a true freshman. Not only did Johnson score three total touchdowns in the victory over NC State, but he also earned MVP honors for his heroics.

The Kansas native pretty much picked up where he left off, and looked impressive throughout spring practice. Now Johnson has become the big man on campus, and he’s excited about the new wrinkles to the playbook. He learned a lot from Will Howard in terms of leadership and responsibility.

Johnson understands what comes with the territory of being a quarterback in the Big 12. There’s a thin line between being the hero in big wins, and the scapegoat in tough losses. Which is why Johnson is embracing accountability, and expecting the same from his teammates.

The Kansas native has matured a lot in such a short period of time, and has all of the tools to be one of the best signal-callers in the conference this fall. Johnson has enjoyed all of the action over the past four weeks, and has earned the trust of the players and coaches.

“Since winter and getting here in the spring, it’s just stepping outside of my comfort zone, and becoming more of a vocal leader,” Johnson said. “Learning not just in the facility, but learning the daily lives of people I’m around, and getting to know everybody on a deeper level.”

The former four-star prospect has monitored his diet through this process. Johnson currently weighs 190 pounds on his six-foot-two frame. He ended last season at 181 pounds, and plans on moving up to the 200 range in the fall. Normally being a true sophomore means having a lot to prove to everyone. However, Johnson is comfortable, and like other great gunslingers, he wants to make others around him better.

Johnson feels the work he put in on the field, in the weight room and with film study, that he has earned the respect of his teammates. In his eyes, that’s going to be beneficial for when the Wildcats navigate through the Big 12 gauntlet.

“Just to have a lot of those guys look at me and count on me, the same way I look at them and count on them, there’s no added pressure or anything,” he said. “Everybody has a job that they do each and every Saturday, so it’s just going out and continuing to execute that.”

Unfortunately, Johnson won’t have the luxury of throwing the ball to wideout Phillip Brooks or All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott this time around. Not to mention All-American offensive lineman Cooper Beebe won’t be blocking for him at the point of attack. Which is why Johnson is determined to build more chemistry with the players that are currently on the roster.

Wideout Keagan Johnson is primed to become his top target, and when push comes to shove Johnson can hand the ball off to 1,000-yard rusher D.J. Giddens. Wells has a solid track history working with quarterbacks, and Johnson is trying to soak up all of his knowledge like a sponge.

“He (Wells) has come in and added some stuff to our offense to make us a little bit more explosive,” the 19-year old said. “Him and Coach Riley, it’s like having two minds back there to be able to bounce ideas off each other, so I look at it as an advantage in my shoes.”

Both Riley and Wells want to run and throw the ball at a high level too. There’ll be a ton of hype surrounding Johnson over the next four months, and he doesn’t want to disappoint. With his breathtaking mobility, and surprising arm strength, there’s no denying he has the potential to take the Wildcats to new heights in the expanded Big 12. Which is why the fall can’t get here fast enough for Kansas State fans.

“Sky’s the limit really, obviously we’re shooting for that College Football Playoff and Big 12 Championship, that’s really where I think we can be headed, we just have to take it one day at a time.”