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Same name, different game

MU football
Aug. 18, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

HUNTINGTON -- When Marshall lines up offensively in 2013, the opposing team is going to have two more things to worry about than it did when the Thundering Herd was ranked sixth offensively in 2012.

Call it "The Devon effect."

That is because both tight end Devon Johnson and inside slot receiver Devon Smith are having huge camps for the Herd.

It would be jumping the gun to call them two Ds in a pod, though.

Aside from the spelling of their first name and their respective breakout camps, there is little similar about the two.

Honestly, they are about as different as you can get.

For starters, Johnson -- who pronounces his first name DEV-un -- is a 6-1, 240-pound mammoth of a man who looks like a wrecking ball with a football in his hands.

Perhaps Herd quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said it best.

"There's a couple of cases where you just throw him the ball and -- coach will probably get mad at me because I didn't carry out my fake -- but you just sit there and watch," Frohnapfel said.

One such occurrence that is being spoken of at length was a simple dump pass into the flat from Frohnapfel.

Johnson turned up-field and saw strong safety D.J. Hunter coming full-speed at him.

The sophomore tight end threw a stiff arm into Hunter's facemask that literally lifted him off the ground and landed him on his back.

And it's not like Hunter is a rookie walk-on, either.

He finished 2012 with 102 tackles, which landed him accolades as a Freshman All-American selection.

"(Devon's) country-boy strong, he's fast and I hope he does that in games to the other team," Frohnapfel said. "I saw him do that and I was like 'Oh my gosh.' You just look over at the defense to see what they are doing. A guy like that makes it exciting."

The humble Johnson took the play in stride, but couldn't help but smile when asked about it.

"I just worked hard all week and it showed here at the scrimmage," said Johnson, who finished with five catches for 93 yards.

As strong as Johnson is, that's exactly how fast that Smith -- who pronounces his first name duh-Von -- is on the field.

The 5-7, 155-pound Smith lined up in the slot during Saturday's scrimmage and was virtually unguardable, using his speed to get in and out of breaks and leaving defenders two steps or more behind.

Smith finished with team highs in catches (10) and yardage (103) while showing his array of route-running capabilities.

There were sit-down routes in zone coverages and guarding him man-to-man on an out route was impossible as he won the race to the sidelines each time the route was called on.

"We were watching film the other day and we were talking about how you need to throw the ball at the snap just so you can make it to him because he's unbelievably fast," Frohnapfel said. "He's one of those guys who will just out-run your arm every time."

While the shorter routes were impressive, his best catch came when he ran what equated to a fade route against press coverage.

Smith broke free from the defender at the line and streaked toward the end zone. Quarterback Rakeem Cato put the ball on the near-side pylon and Smith made an adjustment in mid-air against good coverage to haul in the 27-yard touchdown pass.

While Johnson and Smith feature completely different games -- Johnson being brutishly physical and Smith being hyper-speed fast -- they have another similarity aside from the spelling of their name and the knack for making plays.

They are both going to be a matchup problem for the opposition in 2013.

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