Johnny Johnson III flashed greatness in his very first game as a Duck with a diving catch against Nebraska. He then faded from the spotlight, contributing 299 receiving yards in 2017 and 215 yards in 2018. Oregon came into 2019 needing a receiver to step up, and Johnson did not disappoint as he led the team in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and catches.
Johnson could arguably be Oregon’s most improved player as he quadrupled his production in many categories from the previous season. In this analysis we will take a look at how Johnson has become a complete receiver in all areas of his game.
Debut vs. Nebraska
Johnny Johnson III burst onto the scene his freshman year when the Ducks defeated Nebraska 42-35 in week 2 of the 2017 season. His 51-yard, full-layout catch became an instant highlight. However, Johnson would finish with only one touchdown in his first season.
Johnson returned to the spotlight in 2019. Johnson was especially dangerous reading blocks and avoiding tacklers. It is rare to have a receiver who can create big plays in space and efficiently run among the chaos of blockers and tacklers, and such plays are usually reserved for running backs. The above video showcases Johnson’s open-field skills out of the tunnel screen pass.
Toughness Across the Middle
Football fans are familiar with the statement that defines wide receiver toughness: “not afraid to go across the middle and take a hit.” Johnson III was often targeted across the middle and proved able to take big hits and hang onto the ball in clutch situations. His two-point conversion, video above, was the difference in the Ducks’ 37-35 victory over Washington State.
Johnson III improved his ability to create explosive plays in 2019. Johnson III generated a highlight reel of big plays, and many were generated off deception. The above video shows Johnson feigning a block and running past the defender for a big play, reading the open areas of the defense, and throwing down a filthy post-corner move that creates 10+ yards of separation from the nearest defender. Johnson’s evolution shows that a crafty receiver can still create separation and make big plays without the benefit of elite speed.
As Oregon looks to replace Justin Herbert at quarterback they will have a receiving corps with big-play potential in returning starters Johnson III, Mycah Pittman, and Jaylon Redd. Duck fans are also waiting for the emergence of USC transfer Devon Williams, who will be eligible after sitting out last season. The receiving corps looks to be a strength for Our Beloved Ducks!
Coach Jeremy Mosier
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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