Reedley College head football coach Eric Marty knew Weber State coaches Jay Hill and Matt Hammer from a coaching clinic in Utah, and also had connected with them when WSU signed Reedley defensive end Okiki Olorunfunmi in the 2020 signing class.
So when a former Reedley quarterback, Randall Johnson, decided to leave Middle Tennessee and enter the transfer portal, Marty knew he needed to make a phone call.
A little more than three weeks later on June 13, the 6-foot-5 Johnson received an offer from Weber State. The next day, he announced his commitment on Twitter and Tuesday, WSU announced his signing. He stands to boost the productivity of WSU’s quarterback group.
“Randall is the caliber of player that can help Weber win a national championship because I know that’s where the program is at right now,” Marty told the Standard-Examiner. “Different programs have different needs, so if I didn’t think he was that caliber of player, I definitely wouldn’t have wasted Coach Hill and Coach Hammer’s time by trying to push him that way.
“I really feel like he’s the caliber of player who could ultimately put that program over the top.”
As an FBS transfer, Johnson said his intention was to find an FCS team so he could play immediately and that, among contact from more than 20 schools since entering the transfer portal on May 22, about 12 of them were from FCS programs.
He said he spoke with Hammer, mostly, and built a relationship over a period of two weeks where they each probed if there was a fit between the QB and the team. When an offer came to join a perennial top-10 FCS program, Johnson jumped.
“I can’t really tell you the exact reason it was, but I felt this was the right place for me to be,” Johnson told the Standard-Examiner. “It’s all put together. They have great receivers, a great offensive line, I’ve been hearing about their running backs, too. I felt like I could go in there and can definitely contribute to the team.”
The Los Angeles native began his Division I eligibility clock a couple years out of high school by enrolling at Reedley College, about 200 miles north from home in a town near Fresno.
His game exploded as a sophomore. In 11 games, Johnson threw for 2,832 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 62.7% completion rate. He also rushed for 797 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading 60-some-odd California junior college programs in total touchdowns.
Reedley went 10-1 in 2018 and Johnson was named his conference’s offensive player of the year. After a 10-0 start, Johnson threw 19 of 28 for 336 yards and four touchdowns, adding 57 yards on the ground, but the Tigers fell 42-41 in a divisional playoff game.
Johnson was rated a three-star prospect and fourth-best dual threat junior college QB in the country. He signed in the early signing period to Middle Tennessee, an FBS program in Conference USA.
Johnson said MTSU coaches told him he was recruited to compete for the starting QB job but, after just one week in fall camp, he was told he’d be redshirting the 2019 season.
He stuck with the Blue Raiders, hoping to prove himself after being redshirted.
“I thought about leaving right then and there but I had it planned out in my head, I was going to come back in the spring and just kill it, just dominate,” Johnson said. “And that’s when COVID-19 happened.”
Johnson felt his conditioning, speed, footwork in the pocket and sense of urgency were all improved from his strong sophomore season at Reedley, but he wouldn’t get a chance to show it.
“They have a returning starter, they were going to go with him, so it was like why test somebody else out if we already have our guy. I wasn’t going to be competing for a spot so I felt like I had to get out of that situation and find somewhere where I can compete and try to start,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working for this. Even when I was at MTSU and redshirting, I was still working hard. I’ve just been waiting to get an opportunity. I’ve just got to come in here prepared and be ready to just lock in, learn the plays, be ready for adversity and everything.”
Johnson certainly steps into a place of need for a Weber State team otherwise brimming with talent and experience.
Expected incumbent starter Jake Constantine and his career 4,428 passing yards entered the transfer portal in February. He has reportedly committed to play at FCS program Towson.
Kaden Jenks returns for his junior season as the most experienced FCS QB on the team, having played in 13 games and throwing for 696 yards on a 49.0% completion rate. Sophomores Teryn Berry and Kylan Weisser return, the latter having thrown two passes in 2019, and accomplished prep passer Bronson Barron, who signed in 2018, returned from his mission in March.
Weber State coaches told Johnson they liked his film and had actually seen him at a camp before he signed at Middle Tennessee.
“Coach Hammer said he wanted me to come in and compete for the starting job and, if I don’t win, that I’ll be the best teammate possible. And that’s something I will do. If I don’t win it, I don’t win it,” Johnson said, “but, I’ve got to say in my head I’m going to win it.”
Hammer, back in the saddle as offensive coordinator, told Johnson that he wants to spread the ball around, run the quarterback some, run RPOs and still own a power run game.
“My biggest thing is I’ve got to come in and be prepared to just study. Study, study, study,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he’s spoken with teammates Devon Cooley, Rashid Shaheed, Ty MacPherson and Raoul Johnson, and is trying to get to campus for the next block of summer classes next week.
Marty described Johnson as a “big-time player” that teammates looked to for leadership — not a “rah rah” type, but someone who will earn his teammate’s trust as he puts in the work alongside them, and the type of QB that can win games for WSU in high-scoring affairs or in slugfests.
“I think guys gravitate to him,” Marty said. “His sophomore year with us, there was no doubt who our leader was, there was no doubt who we were looking to in times of need or in big moments of a game. He’s going to tap his chest and take responsibility and leadership, and lead a group forward.”
Marty said people in the town of Reedley still ask about Johnson because he was an active part of the community.
“He’s a super talented football player … throws it better than any quarterback I’ve seen and he can also run it, and he’s also a great young man off the field. A lot of positives there,” Marty said.
‘CATS SIGN HOOPS TIGHT END
Weber State football also announced the signing of 6-foot-7 tight end Logan Strom on Tuesday.
Strom was a scholarship basketball player but did not play at UC Davis (redshirting in 2017-18) and then Omaha (sat due to transfer rules in 2018-19).
He was offered football scholarships to Buffalo, Cincinnati and Wyoming out of high school in Norfolk, Nebraska, according to his ESPN recruiting profile. WSU’s announcement of his signing says he’ll be a junior for the football team.