Johnston’s patience during TCU coaching change pays off big

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Quentin Johnston had options when picking his college destination, eventually deciding on TCU because of the two decades of coaching stability provided by Gary Patterson.


The good news is Johnston has learned that unforeseen hurdles aren’t always a bad thing. Patterson surprisingly left TCU late in the 2021 season after 21 years, paving the way for first-year coach Sonny Dykes, who has led the third-ranked Horned Frogs (12-1) to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

They’ll face No. 2 Michigan (13-0) on Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl.

“Obviously, it turned out pretty good,” Johnston said with a grin. “I can’t complain.”

Johnston leads the Horned Frogs with 903 yards receiving and five touchdowns despite a slow start and a midseason ankle injury that limited his production.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver is expected to be a coveted prize in the upcoming NFL draft. His combination of size, speed and strong hands has some evaluators saying he will be the first receiver drafted and a potential top 10 pick.

On Saturday, he will try to make life miserable for the Wolverines. He is more healthy than he has been for much of the season and he had four catches for 139 yards against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 3.

One thing teammates love about him: Johnston is decidely low maintenence.

“The kid’s an extremely hard worker and a great person to be around,” quarterback and Heisman Trophy-runner-up Max Duggan said. “He wants to show up and grow to work. He wants to practice. He wants to do all the little stuff and the dirty stuff. He wants to lift weights.

“I think that’s what makes him such a good player. Obviously, we know what he is talent-wise, but the type of person he is makes him special.”

Johnston’s one of a core group of TCU players – including Duggan and cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson – who decided to stay with the Horned Frogs despite Patterson’s departure. It helped that Dykes had a good reputation around the program because he was an offensive analyst on the 2017 team, which finished with an 11-3 record.

“I was ready from Coach Dykes’ first meeting – sitting right up front,” Johnston said. “Embracing everything and listening to what he had to say. I just kept my mind on TCU football and not who is coaching TCU football.”

Hodges-Tomlinson – also a potential first-round NFL draft pick – said adapting and thriving during a coaching change has been useful and could help in the pros.

“At the end of the day, you have to handle what’s at hand, no matter what comes with it,” Hodges-Tomlinson said. “It happens like that in the NFL. You might get a new coach. You never know. New coordinator or something. So being able to handle change is the main goal.”

Johnston has had a couple mammoth games this season, including 14 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown against Kansas. One week later, he had eight catches for 180 yards and a touchdown vs. Oklahoma State.

He also had a touchdown catch against Texas in a 17-10 win. Patterson – who is now an assistant coach at Texas – was on the opposing sideline. Johnston said it was strange, particularly when Patterson was doing the “Hook `em Horns” sign, but they’ve stayed in touch.

The receiver said Patterson and his wife texted him after his ankle injury earlier this season, wishing him well.

“It was hard to get mad,” Johnston said. “You can’t stay somewhere forever. Everybody’s time comes to an end, so I just tried to put that in perspective. I just gave him my best wishes and hoped the best for him moving forward.”

The successful transition to Dykes has made moving on much easier. The Horned Frogs were 11-11 during Johnston’s first two seasons under Patterson. Now they’re two wins away from being the national champions.

“To actually make it this far, it’s something that you can’t imagine,” Johnston said. “You can prepare for it, but once you’re here, it’s like, `I’m really here.’

“I worked my butt off for this, but still, you’ve got to sit back and say I’m really here.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.