UCF RB Storm Johnson (8) will have to fight off challengers for the starting job. (Joshua C. Cruey / Orlando Sentinel / April 13, 2013)
The popular belief was that the 2013 season was Storm Johnson’s chance to be the featured back.
While the Miami transfer remains the presumptive starter going into Thursday’s opener against Akron at Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF coach George O’Leary stopped short when asked if he thought Johnson was ready to grab hold of the responsibilities as the Knights top back.
“I’m going to roll the running backs,” O’Leary said after practice on Friday. “I haven’t said anything to the offense yet, but we’re going to roll the running backs. I want to see these running backs, I want to see who is doing the things I like being done.”
That means Johnson still has work to do to fend of a challenge from sophomore Cedric Thompson, a 6-foot, 227-pound bruiser who fits more into O’Leary’s style, and freshman Will Stanback. At the very least, it’s a strong statement from the Knights’ head coach to the junior running back.
"I've been working all my life for this moment, really," Johnson told the Sentinel this spring. "And now it's here. I build on my learning experiences and my tools and I work on my craft and get better every day, and I expect to do big things this year."
Every indication from preseason is that Stanback, a Long Island product from Uniondale High, has won the third-string job. A late signee by UCF, Stanback impressed throughout camp and now the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back appears to be in the mix with Johnson and Thompson.
When the Knights take the field next week, Johnson will have plenty left to prove and even more at stake.