Zach Johnson is a 6’1”, 190-pound Quarterback from Newhall, CA, a product of Hart High School in Santa Clarita California. He is rated as a consensus three-star recruit. Johnson committed to Cal on June 3, 2019.
Johnson’s recruiting experience was relatively brief, featuring no official visits and interest from a limited number of schools. While Johnson only formally received offers from Cal and William and Mary, he was considering a number of high-profile academic schools, including: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, Washington State, Montana State, Fresno State, and Boise State.
According to 247sports, Johnson runs a 5.06 forty, has 4.66 shuffle, and a 27.50 inch vertical. He has a similar stat line to one of the least athletic players in NFL combine history, Tom Brady, who ran a 5.08 forty with a 24.5 inch vertical at the 2004 Combine (not to endorse Johnson as the next Brady at this point in his career).
Johnson will enter a fairly deep Quarterback room when he arrives at Cal (presumably in the Spring). The newly confident Chase Garbers, Devon Modster, and JC transfer Jack Newman will all likely be returning as obvious choices up the depth chart. Johnson; however, will likely be competing against current freshmen Spencer Brasch and Robby Rowell for the starting job in one 2022 season.
In an interview with Scorebook Live on June 15, Johnson said, “…one of the things I wanted to focus on throughout this process was to choose a school that has really good academics… and I wanted a school that was going to set me up to do great things after football.” Johnson went on to say that his decision to join the Golden Bears’ class of 2020 was due largely to efforts made by offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, who personally visited Johnson in the spring. It appears that chemistry played a significant role in the decision process, with Johnson feeling comfortable with the coaching staff and with the Berkeley environment.
Johnson’s strengths are both his cultural fit with the team and with his mental ability to read the game and make good decisions. He had a 62 percent completion rate and passed for 2,892 yards with 30 touchdowns in his 2018 junior season, with an additional 347 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. While the numbers are not eye-popping, Johnson shows confidence in the pocket, and demonstrates the ability to make throws decisively, always throwing off of his front foot to drive the ball down the field, and taking hits when necessary to get the ball to where it needs to go.
Johnson’s greatest weakness at this point is his size. While smaller quarterbacks have become more common in the college and pro game, Johnson is likely going to have to put on 20-30 pounds in the weight room before he has the opportunity to see the field during a game. In addition, he has a habit of looking to roll out too early at times, which twists his shoulders towards the sidelines. This tendency not only wastes time in the pocket, but leaves him out of position to make a throw down the field. Cal has no shortage of great coaches on its staff, and these should be fairly fixable problems come springtime.
Johnson by all accounts will be a great fit for the Cal football program, and it seems that the coaching staff really wanted to get him, although it is unlikely that he will see the field before the 2021/2022 seasons. The academic requirements at Cal on student athletes are high in comparison to other universities, and Johnson, after earning a 4.4 GPA in high school, seems more prepared than most to make the jump.