Published 7:16 pm Friday, August 1, 2014

Johnson, McLaughlin looking to earn playing time in high octane Troy offense

John Johnson and Nick McLaughlin have never been teammates until a few days ago, but both are well aware of each other’s accomplishments.

McLaughlin starred at Pike Liberal Arts a few years back, winning a pair of AISA State Championships with the Patriots. Johnson scored touchdowns in bunches for the Charles Henderson Trojans during his time in orange and blue and was the catalyst of the Trojans’ run to the Alabama High School Athletic Association 4A Championship Game last December.

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With their high school accomplishments in the past, both local products are attempting to earn a spot in the high-powered, fast paced Troy offense.

McLaughlin is a running back, but showed off his hands last season as he reeled in a touchdown pass against Savannah State. He has a year of experience under his belt, and now McLaughlin is looking to be in the mix for more reps.

“This is just another step up from high school,” McLaughlin said. “It is an honor to be out here and playing college football, so I just want to contribute in whatever way I can.”

During the opening practices of the year, McLaughlin ran routes, hauled in a couple of passes and showed impressive speed and agility for man that stands 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 233 pounds.

“The toughest part of receiving is just getting the tempo and different cadence of each of the quarterbacks down,” McLaughlin said “After that, you just have to catch the football.”

Johnson is a natural slot receiver, and reeled in 10 touchdown passes during his senior year of high school.

Johnson drew praise from Troy head coach Larry Blakeney following the team’s first fall practices. Blakeney said Johnson made a couple of great catches and feels he will only get better with time and experience.

Johnson said the first day of college practice was just about what he expected.

“It is very intense and very tough,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of moving around because the coaches want to make sure every minute is spent getting better. I had some of the older guys help me out and tell me where to go today, and that helped.”

Johnson played in a spread offense in high school, and said there are quite a few similarities in Kenny Edenfield’s and Rodney Jordan’s schemes.

“Really the only thing different are the names of the plays,” Johnson said. “The routes are the same, so I just have to learn the near lingo.”

McLaughlin said, with a laugh, there hasn’t been too much cross-town high school trash talk between Johnson and himself, but did say if a foot race ever happened, he wouldn’t bet on himself.

Troy continues fall practice Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Practice is open to the public.