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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Johnson gets ready for life on the sidelines

It was a routine play. On fourth-and-15 in desperation time for the Utes, Brian Johnson avoided the New Mexico rush, scrambled left and burst down the sideline. And that was the unceremonious end to Johnson’s sophomore season.

“It kind of happened so fast, I don’t really even remember. I just remember hearing a pop, and I knew from there I was out,” Johnson said. “It hurt really bad. Just a really loud pop, and I couldn’t really get up after it.”

The Ute quarterback lay on the ground for several minutes as the team’s trainers looked at his left knee. Both he and the team knew right away that it was serious. The MRI he had earlier this week confirmed what they already knew-that his anterior cruciate ligament was torn and his season over.

“I kind of knew once I went down,” he said. “I couldn’t pick my leg up, so I knew it was pretty bad.”

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Johnson, who will now miss the chance to beat arch-nemesis BYU in a game that holds Utah’s bowl chances in the balance.

“It’s tough missing the BYU game; you get fired up to play those guys,” Johnson said. “It’s not a good feeling. You want to be out there playing and helping the team. But there’s nothing I can do about it now-it’s already done.”

With little-used Brett Ratliff set to take over this Saturday, Johnson’s role changes from starter to mentor. He has been at practice this week and taken on the responsibility of getting Ratliff prepared for what is sure to be a furious defensive attack by the Cougars’ 3-3-5 defense-not to mention a sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd.

“I’m just trying to give him all the help I can, whether it’s film study or out there on the practice field, helping him decide where he’s going to go with the ball and making reads and doing some of the little things,” Johnson said.

“We’ve got to make up for (injuries) with everyone else and just come in ready to play and ready to win,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff, not surprisingly, said he welcomes as many tips and as much advice as Johnson can give him as he embarks on the biggest day of his career. But despite Johnson’s enthusiasm over his modified responsibilities, he says such a sudden change has been difficult to handle.

“I want to be out there on the field making plays. Now I’ve got to sit back and watch,” Johnson said. “It’ll be tough, but it’s something that I have to do.”

While his and the team’s concentration focuses on the Cougars and making sure Ratliff is fully prepared for whatever they throw at him, the weeks to follow will be a different story. Johnson will soon undergo surgery to repair the torn ACL, and that’s the easy part. There will be at least four to six months of rehabilitation before he’s fully able to return to the field.

The fact that he’s just 18 and has never suffered an injury like this bodes well for his chances of a speedy recovery, but even the minimum rehab time will likely keep him out of practice for the start of spring camp. The team’s offense will be kept intact for next season, so there is little reason to believe he will be behind once he does return. But when Johnson is back, it may take awhile for him find his footing and his previous form.

Johnson said he isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for spring. “We’ll see how far along I am in my rehab process and how the surgery goes, but I plan to be there. I’ve just got to go out there and continue to work hard.”

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