Returner, MAC prove elusive

<p>Cornerback Tejay Johnson, a redshirt freshman,?prepares to tackle Connecticut’s Nick Williams, who fumbled on the play Oct. 6 on a first-half kickoff return.</p>

Cornerback Tejay Johnson, a redshirt freshman,?prepares to tackle Connecticut’s Nick Williams, who fumbled on the play Oct. 6 on a first-half kickoff return.

Tejay Johnson wasted little time describing Kent State’s Dri Archer.

“Very fast, very fast, very, very fast,” the redshirt freshman cornerback said. “He makes a lot of small plays. He breaks tackles, a little wiggle to him. He does everything — running back, he’s the kickoff returner, he’s a receiver.”

Archer, arguably No. 1 on the Rutgers football team’s scouting report, could turn High Point Solutions Stadium into a track meet tomorrow. He averages a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash, but his best time was 4.21, Archer told The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Oct. 9.

It suits Johnson, who finished first in the 100-meter dash at the Meet of Champions as a junior at Egg Harbor Township (N.J.) High School and still feels he has yet to show his top-end speed.

“At corner, I have to run at the pace of the receiver,” Johnson said. “But on kickoff, if God forbid he gets open through a hole, then that’d be the opportunity I get to show and go get him. I’m not shy about that — I’m going to go get him.”

The Scarlet Knights (7-0, 4-0) do not want to play the waiting game, either.

They watched Big East rival Cincinnati lose to the MAC’s Toledo last weekend, foiling a previously unblemished record. Head coach Kyle Flood said the team took note of Connecticut and South Florida’s losses to MAC schools.

It has its own experience to draw from, as well.

The Knights held off Ohio and quarterback Tyler Tettleton, 38-26, last season. Tettleton threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns Sept. 1 in a win at Penn State.

“Certainly our players know that teams from that conference don’t go anywhere in the country and are intimidated,” Flood said.

Archer fuels the MAC’s first-place team.

He leads the nation with 47.7 yards per kick return and three touchdowns. He lines up in the backfield, along the line of scrimmage and touches the ball in motion.

“I heard people were making comparisons to [West Virginia’s] Tavon Austin,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “I could see that, but he’s his own player.”

The Knights point to their success against UConn’s Nick Williams three weeks ago, when they forced a fumble on a kickoff and pinned the Huskies inside their 15-yard line.

Williams accounted for more than 150 return yards in a 2011 meeting and scored on a kickoff two years ago in Piscataway.

Flood said he will kick to the Golden Flashes’ (6-1) biggest playmaker.

“We think we’ve got talented players on there, guys that can run,” Flood said. “I would be disappointed if they weren’t excited about the challenge.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.

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