A quarterback in high school at DeSales, walk-on Ryan Johnson has found a home on the University of Louisville football team.
Johnson was in a battle with scholarship player Joshua Appleby for the punting job on the Louisville team last season, winning the battle after one game.
Now, heading into the new season and Johnson is back in the position. He’ll be the starting punter for the Cardinals on Sunday in the opener against Ohio U.
”It feels good,” Johnson said. “I feel a lot better about everything this year, having a whole year under my belt now.”
The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Johnson punted 49 times as a sophomore and averaged 39.4 yards a kick. He had six touchbacks and 20 inside the 20.
”Ryan did a really nice job for us,” U of L special teams coach Kenny Carter said. “And now he’s improved. He did a good job in camp and has done a really good job of improving since last season.”
Johnson said he has “improved in a few areas,” including his confidence level. He’s starting his third year in the program, so he’s become a veteran.
”I’m a lot more confident,” Johnson said. “I have a year under my belt and I know what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right. I just go out there and try to perfect everything that I need to do.”
Working with Mike McCabe for 21 days at One on One kicking in Pensacola, Fla., Johnson said the biggest difference this season is his operation time. The operation time is the time from the snap to the kick.
”It needed to be faster,” he said. “I feel like I have accomplished that and I have become more consistent. Working with (McCabe), I worked on my drops, my kicks, just drills and everything you can think of.”
Johnson said his operational time last year was between 2.1-2.15 seconds and is now down to 1.95 seconds. He said the best time is 1.9-2.0 for punters.
”It’s all repetition, repetition, repetition,” he said. “I feel like I have worked pretty hard and that I am ready for the season.”
Johnson had some good moments – and some not so good moments last season. He lined up too close late in the North Carolina game and had one blocked, but redeemed himself against Florida International when he stood in late in the game and picked up a roughing kicker penalty.
”He’s a tough kid and he’s a great athlete,” Carter said.