Whatever happened to Collin Johnson?
You know, the Texas wide receiver that set the college football world on its collective ear last year in the Longhorns’ 27-24 double-overtime loss at Southern California.
Johnson was a man among boys in that game. Seven catches, 191 yards — most ever by a Texas player on the road and the fourth-most in any game for the Longhorns — while planting, driving and thriving against a talented Trojans secondary that included All- Pac 12 defensive back Iman Marshall.
Johnson is still one of the main targets for the Longhorns.
Over the past eight games he’s not been anywhere near the threat he was on that night last September in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“It definitely showed what I can do, what I’m capable of,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I really think I’ve gotten better since then — I know I’ve gotten better.”
Since that game, Johnson’s production waned, and it took a definite downturn over the second half of the 2017 campaign.
Over the final six weeks of last season, Johnson had just 24 receptions for 230 yards (38.3 yards per game) and one touchdown, pedestrian numbers for a 6-foot-6 receiver who can go over or through most of the defensive backs that are covering him. Consider he averaged 27.3 yards per catch at SC last season.
This year’s production has been better.
Johnson has seven catches for 96 yards combined and one touchdown in the first two games. But it has not yet been the breakout effort many expected, and some felt Texas needed to thrive in this system.
Johnson, who is from San Jose and chose Texas over USC, among others, said he improved his route running over the past year and better grasps the concepts of the Texas offense under the same coordinator for back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2013.
“I understand the spacing between the different concepts and timing,” Johnson explained. “I know how to time out my routes better, about high pointing and catching the 50-50 ball more consistently, and body positioning and body control and just a few different things. But I for sure feel like I improved on those things.”
Part of Johnson’s struggles at the end of last year was the Longhorns’ injury-decimated offensive line. Texas quarterbacks lacked the time to find Johnson the on deep patterns on which he thrived earlier in the year.
And the fact that the opposition knows what Johnson has often means he will be the Texas receiver that draws two defenders. That allows opportunities for the other Longhorn wideouts have space to make plays.
“I had a great performance against USC last year, and we still lost the game,” Johnson said. “I’m just focused on doing everything in my power to win – that’s all I can control.”
–By Steve Habel (@SteveHabel), Field Level Media