Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, September 16, 2013

By Sammy Batten

Multi-skilled Johnson fits the bill for ECU

Pirates project speedy quarterback as explosive receiver

By Sammy Batten
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East Carolina's continuous pursuit of big-play athletes, especially for its offense, brought the coaching staff to Knightdale, NC, just outside the capital city of Raleigh early during the 2012 season.

The ECU coaches had seen highlight video of Knightdale's early games and were impressed by Knights' quarterback, Marquavious "Quay'' Johnson. But what they saw in Johnson was not only a quarterback, but a guy who moved around the field to play tailback, wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks.

In other words, Johnson was the kind of multi-purpose, big-play guy who is a perfect fit for ECU's "Air Raid'' offense.

Check that. Johnson isn't returning kicks this year.

"He doesn't return punts and kickoffs anymore because nobody will kick or punt to him,'' Knightdale coach Robert Senseney said.

That's just how dangerous the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has been with the football in his hands since joining the Knightdale varsity as a freshman. He made his first impact on the varsity as a tailback and slot receiver during a freshman season highlighted by 73-yard touchdown reception in a 28-14 win against East Wake.

Johnson would eventually wind up on the other end of a touchdown pass when his brother and starting quarterback Marcell suffered an injury.

"Marquavious approached us about playing quarterback when his brother, who was one of our quarterbacks, got hurt,'' Senseney said. "We haven't looked back since, but we do still move him around a lot.''

The approach enabled Johnson to collect Neuse River 4-A Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors last season. He did most of his damage on the ground, rushing for 1,213 yards and scoring 20 touchdowns as Knightdale finished with a 7-4 overall record. The Knights advanced to the first round of the state 4-A playoffs where they fell, 39-14, against conference rival Clayton.

Two games before, Johnson enjoyed perhaps the best game of his career to date in league play against Harnett Central. He had touchdown runs of 48 and 54 yards, then picked up a fumble and raced 66 yards for a third score in the 40-13 triumph.

In a 28-20 win against East Wake earlier in the season, Senseney said Johnson made the most spectacular play of the season on a 60-yard touchdown run.

"We were running what we call a Jet Read, and he's the quarterback,'' Senseney said. "He ran for a 60-yard touchdown, but he basically ran almost 150 yards to get it. He weaved in and out, make people miss, grabbed blockers and put them in front of him ... and the last five yards he dragged two or three kids into the end zone with him.''

Johnson has been just as dazzling this season in Knightdale's 3-1 start. He threw 20 yards for a touchdown, and had scoring runs of 28 and 3 yards in the season-opening victory against Raleigh Sanderson. In the Knights' only loss, against Heritage, Johnson had a 28-yard touchdown pass and 1-yard scoring run, but his biggest play wound up not counting. He had a 71-yard touchdown run called back due to penalty that would have given Knightdale the lead with two minutes to play.

Although his biggest prep plays have come at quarterback, East Carolina plans to use him at receiver, according to Senseney.

"We play him at quarterback because he's the best athlete in our program right now,'' Senseney said. "But I think his natural position is slot receiver. He definitely has a quick step once he gets into the open field. He's a kid who can just get vertical, and he can make people miss.

"I think the transition to slot receiver will be easy for him. He's played it and he understands it. When the coaches watched him at ECU's camp last summer, it was obvious he was one of the better receivers there.

Old Dominion had also offered a scholarship to Johnson.

Football probably won't the the only sport Johnson participates in at ECU. He's one of the state's top high school track athletes, who won the state 400-meter title (47.16 seconds) and was the anchor for two state champion relay teams as a junior. As part of Knightdale's 4x800 relay squad, Johnson helped break a state record in last year's 4-A meet that had stood since 1987.

"I think the plan is he's going to try to run at ECU at some point, too,'' Senseney said. "He's one of the best in the country in the 400.''

Johnson is so talented in the 400 and relays that he was one of 16 chosen to represent the United States last summer in Puerto Rico for the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational. He earned silver medals in the 400 and 4x400 relay.

East Carolina now has 13 players verbally committed to the recruiting Class of 2014. Johnson is the third receiver prospect in the class along with Stephen Baggett from Beaufort, S.C., and Curtis Burston of Middle Creek High in Apex.

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09/16/2013 04:43 AM