Coach's Take: CSU's Hill on Gartrell Johnson

RB Gartrell Johnson (Kevin Terrell/Getty)

Fourth-round pick Gartrell Johnson will inject a power-running element into San Diego's offense. But how big of a splash can he make as a rookie? To find out, SDBoltReport.com's Michael Kranzler caught up with Colorado State running backs coach Anthoney Hill.

Gartrell Johnson adds power and depth to San Diego's running back rotation. The downhill runner dominated during his senior season at Colorado State, carrying 278 times for 1,476 yards (5.3 ypc) and 12 touchdowns.

Although he lacks breakaway speed, Johnson has the vision and tackle-breaking ability to big a big-play weapon in the NFL. He also provides insurance in case LaDainian Tomlinson is injured for a third consecutive season.

But is Johnson really ready to step in and play a prominent roles this season? To find out, SDBoltReport.com's Michael Kranzler checks in with CSU running backs coach Anthoney Hill.

Michael Kranzler: Tell me about Gartrell's work ethic on and off the field.

Anthoney Hill: Gartrell has a tremendous work ethic. He's a guy who, when it really comes to that stuff, he'll set the pace for your team. He's going to get after it on and off the field. You see how he looks and you know why, because he just works his butt off. He's a tireless worker, the first guy in and the last guy to leave and all that stuff. He just goes about his business in a very professional way. The guy is definitely a hard worker and he deserves to be in the position he's in now.


RB Gartrell Johnson
Kevin Terrell/Getty

MK: Tell me about his performance in the New Mexico Bowl (285 yards rushing, 90 yards receiving and two TDs in a 40-35 victory over Fresno State). Was that in the game plan or did you adapt to his big day?

AH: You know, we thought we could do some things against their run defense, and he had been, throughout the season, he had been close to having some real big bust-out games, and it just happened to come in that one. He had the two huge runs, and it was definitely in the game plan to get into it. Shoot, he made a couple plays that probably went more unnoticed. He goes from a 3-yard loss to a 4- or 5-yard gain, which is huge. We definitely had plans to pound that ball a bit, and that's kind of our M.O. anyway, so we felt we could do a little bit more against them.

MK: What is the best part of his game?

AH: I think the best part is the fact that he's a complete back. He's a downhill runner for the most part, and he's what we call a nice "one-cut." He makes a decision, plants that foot in the ground and he's gone. His physicality is huge, because he'll block you. He doesn't care. He'll stick his nose in there on a linebacker. He'll do whatever you ask him to do.

MK: How do you think Gartrell compares to former Charger Michael Turner?

AH: You know what? I think [he compares] kind of favorably. He's in that mold. I've never seen Michael Turner up close but he's got those real strong legs, and that's kind of the way Gartrell is. His base is really strong. He's a physical guy. Everything he does compares favorably to Michael Turner. They're kind of in the same mold.

MK: What will he need to work on the most to be successful at the next level?

AH: Well you know, I think the one thing that we tried to have him work on a little bit more here was route-running, because we tried to throw the ball a little bit out of the backfield, but depending on what the role for him is there [in San Diego], that may not be much of a factor. Route-running is probably where he needs to keep trying to get better, but he got better last year.

To hear what Colorado State recruiting coordinator Greg Peterson had to say about Gartrell Johnson, click here.

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