Johnson Expected Back at Practice for Louisville Week

Mark Stoops delivered good news on Monday. Stephen Johnson II is expected to make a full return to practice this week.

“(Director of Sports Medicine) Jim (Madaleno) tells me that there was no setback yesterday when he came in and got his treatment and there’s no swelling, came out of the game fine,” Stoops said. “So that was good to hear.”

Johnson has been contending with a knee injury since the Tennessee game. He practiced very little leading up to Saturday’s game against Austin Peay and was replaced by Luke Wright in the starting lineup. Johnson was available in case of emergency, but the preference was to give him a chance to heal.

Of course, emergency came in the form of a 13-0 deficit early. Johnson was summoned from the bench and promptly sparked the Wildcats to score 49 unanswered points and clinch bowl eligibility. The calming effect Johnson had on his teammates was plain to see. 

“I think the guys really kind of come around towards me,” Johnson said on Saturday. “We’ve all kind of bonded and clicked a little bit more, so I think just me being in there and all of us being able to know what we can do with the offense settles us down, calms us down.”

If he hadn’t missed the first two series, no one likely would have known Johnson was injured. In limited duty, Johnson completed 5-of-9 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, showing the perfect touch he’s come to be known for on deep throws in the process. He also added two carries for 14 yards.

This week, Johnson will be opposed by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson, who has thrown for 3,109 yards, rushed for 1,367 yards and accounted for an astounding 47 total touchdowns. Johnson lacks the gaudy numbers of the Louisville quarterback, but Stoops sees one important similarity between the two. Just like Jackson, Johnson will do whatever it takes to win.

“I think a lot the same way in that regard in how it’s hard not to admire Stephen Johnson and see him play hurt,” Stoops said. “He’s been banged up. He was hurt last week. And to see him come in and have the poise and the confidence, you can see that with the team.”

Johnson had already earned the respect of his teammates over and over after replacing the injured Drew Barker early in the third game of the season. Saturday only served to cement that.

“I think that was great for our football team and it says a lot about who Stephen is,” Stoops said. “He’s a tough guy, like I mentioned after the game. And he’s a leader and been very pleased with him.”