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Chiefs counting on 'X' factor vs. TBT

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Wed. September 21, 2011 | Joey Knight | Email

Chiefs counting on 'X' factor vs. TBT

Should he maintain his current prolific rushing pace, Chamberlain junior Xavier Johnson soon could be receiving as many offers as handoffs.

And that's what scares Chiefs coaches.

"He's going to be recruited hard," veteran assistant Jim Gee said. "And I don't mean by colleges."

The coaches' cynicism quickly segues into unabashed praise when discussing Johnson. In the Chiefs' two games, both ulcer-inducing defeats, Johnson (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) has run for nearly 400 yards.

In Friday's 20-17 overtime loss to Wharton, he ran for 250 and two touchdowns on 29 carries, gutting the Wildcats' defense on everything from sweeps to slices up the middle.

"He's just a natural, tough," said Chiefs coach Joe Severino , whose team (0-2, 0-0) faces Tampa Bay Tech (1-2, 0-0) in a Class 7A, District 7 contest Friday.

Gee, not prone to hyperbole, calls him the "real deal."

"Joe had (2001 county rushing leader) Ray Neal over at King, and I was coaching guys here like (former University of Florida and NFL tailback) Eugene McCaslin ," Gee said. "This guy's every bit as good as all those guys. And I don't give faint praise."

Lean and chiseled, Johnson exudes equal parts humility and muscle tone. On Tuesday, he was quick to lavish praise on the linemen -- Randall Gunter, Wesley Skiles , Joe Castellano, Dajshon Oliver, Stephen Overton -- who helped create gaps all along the line of scrimmage.

On Friday, against a fast, physical Titans defense, he'll need help from more than his blockers. Sophomore quarterback Josh Bennett will have to keep TBT honest with success in the play-action pass.

If the passing game does its job, Johnson could generate even more interest.

Cue the coaches' wincing.

"He runs inside, outside," Severino said. "He's not huge, but he has great lower body lean, keeps his feet moving, stiff-arm, slips and dips when he gets outside. He's just a natural."

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