Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson is stepping into a prime opportunity at Oregon.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound veteran receiver, who announced plans to become a graduate transfer in January, committed to Oregon and will soon be catching passes from Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. The senior is already on 2019 Heisman Trophy watch lists and, with Dillon Mitchell’s NFL departure, needs someone to throw to.
In other words, there is a vacancy for Oregon’s next top receiver.
Wait, are you having deja vu?
Probably. The same question surrounded Oregon’s wide receivers and tight ends entering the 2018 season: Who will Herbert sling the ball to?
Last season, Wake Forest grad transfer Tabari Hines was brought in to provide a veteran presence. Expectations were high for Hines, however, he had a procedure performed on his left knee and played sparingly before announcing he'd leave the Oregon program midway through the season. Hines utilized his redshirt, transferred to N.C. State and is looking forward to a healthy final year of college football.
“It’s a blessing itself just to have the opportunity (at Oregon)”, Hines said of Oregon’s new grad transfer Johnson. “But opportunity itself doesn’t guarantee anything without preparation”.
Hines’ advice to Johnson?
“With the amount of resources there are at Oregon, if you put them to use you should take huge strides as a player and person.”
Last season will be remembered as the year of Mitchell, who had the best individual receiving season in program history.
Johnson could be the answer in 2019. He will enroll at Oregon this summer after completing a communications degree at Penn State. He brings needed experience to the position: played in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran player Brenden Schooler (21 games). His large, powerful, physical frame is unlike the other receivers currently on Oregon’s roster along with his ability to power through and over defensive backs. He’s proved he can put up big numbers; in 2017, he caught 54 passes for 701 yards and averaged 13 yards per reception.
However, proceed with caution before you write him in as Oregon’s next offensive weapon. Johnson is coming of a low production 2018 season (25 passes for 352 yards) after a lot of preseason hype (like being named a top-10 2019 NFL Draft pick). His season was plagued with dropped passes and he missed games with injuries. By Penn State’s bowl game, Johnson was demoted to second string.
Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s receivers in 2018, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight will be tasked with fixing.
Johnson isn’t the only new face vying for playing time in Oregon’s receivers room. The Ducks signed incoming freshmen Josh Delgado, Mycah Pittman, Lance Willhoite and J.R. Waters. Any of the four signees could make an impact immediately.
The fresh faces join returners Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III, Brendan Schooler, Bryan Addison and Isaah Crocker. Redd gives Oregon a speed option in the slot and finished second on the team in receptions (38), yards (433) and touchdowns (5) in 2018.
Will the returners figure out how to improve production? Will there be one fresh face to become an Oregon household name in 2019?
Hines says he’s looking forward to current players on the roster who could emerge this season. Specifically he mentioned the trio of Addison, Crocker and Johnson III, who he says have been “waiting for their moment”.
The moment has arrived and Juwan Johnson is the newest (and biggest) receiver to join the fight for playing time.