Analysis: The Evolution of Johnny Johnson III

Jeremy Mosier Analysis 11 Comments

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.

Reading Blockers

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.

Explosive Plays

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
Geneseo, Illinois
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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Charles Fischer

Coach, I know this will be the last analysis you will be doing for quite a while and I wanted to convey my appreciation for the amazing articles you have given us. You have made learning football easy to understand, and yet you cover so much.

My many thanks,

Charles

Jon Joseph

AMEN!

30Duck

The Oregon Bandwagon is filling up. Yesterday Jerry Palm at CBS jumped on, today it’s Erick Smith @ USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2020/10/20/college-football-bowl-projections-georgia-loss-puts-oregon-playoff/3709604001/

The biggest beneficiary of Saturday night is Oregon. The Ducks will only play six conference games and a Pac-12 championship game — if they make it that far. None of their scheduled opponents is currently ranked. How would a 7-0 Oregon stack up against a 9-2 Georgia with its only losses to Alabama? That’s sure to be an interesting debate if we reach that point.

For now, the projected spot in the playoff behind Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State goes to Oregon. The Ducks don’t start until Nov. 7, so it will still be some time before they can be assessed.

Jon Sousa

OT Canzano says that MC is the 11th highest paid coach in the PAC 12. I’m assuming JS at OSU is 12th.

David Marsh

I remember Rob Mosely talking about Johnny Johnson a lot in practice reports in his first few years with the Ducks where he was reportedly making catches likes that Nebraska one in practice quite regularly. Looking at many of his crazy catches last year he certainly has a knack of some crazy catches.

It just seems to me that it wasn’t until last year that he started to translate some of his abilities in practice into games. Which would also explain why he was getting so much play time for a couple years there when he really wasn’t producing a great deal… because he was in practice.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Jeremy. Love the game clips. These takes are most informative; really help a guy who never coached get a feel for the nuances of the game.

OT – Is this outrageous, or what! Setting aside COVID related salary adjustments. in 2020 every coach in the Pac-12, sans Smith at Oregon State, is scheduled to make more than Mario Cristobal. The highest paid Pac-12 coach is Utah’s Whittingham; he comes in 20th in the nation.

Before the SEC kicked off, one of the early FOX Big Noon games featured Arkansas State at Kansas State. This game drew an audience of 1.8M homes. This is DOUBLE what the Pac-12 draws for a late start on FS1 and on the high side for conference night games shown on ESPN.

The above information was taken from The Mercury News, Jon Wilner, who does a great job of covering the conference.

Wilner also notes that for all intent and purposes the Pac-12 Network has been and is a complete failure. He scoffs at the idea that any organization is going to fork over big money for the network and the conference broadcast rights come 2024.

Clemson of the west? Dabo Swinney makes $9M+ per annum. 80,000+ fans attend every Clemson home game. More than twice the # of fans tune in for Clemson’s conference games than Ducks conference games. The ACC network is owned and operated by CFB media cartel, ESPN.

Somehow, someway, somewhere, Oregon has to find a more lucrative partnership then currently exists in the Pac-12. It has to find partners that want to compete and succeed at the highest level. Partners that have the resources to do so.

Post-COVID, Mullens better at least double Mario’s salary or he will again, be looking for a new football coach.

Among others, Gus Malzahn may be finished at Auburn; ditto Tom Herman at Texas. Both schools have plenty of $.

Jon Joseph

From Stewart Mandel’s Mailbag posted today on The Athletic.

Q. If you could pick a program and 4 year period (freshman-to-senior) representing the most exciting 4 years of CFB since you began covering the sport. which school and which years would it be?

A. The 2009-2012 Oregon Ducks.

However, mostly because of opt outs and no JH, Mandel likes SC to be the champion of the conference in 2020. This is fine, when it comes to predictions, Mandel rarely gets it right.

Also on today’s weekly recruiting update on The Athletic, recruiting guru, Ari Wasserman, gives a huge shout out to Mario Cristobal.

The Ducks is a unique brand that should not be dragged down by ineffective conference leadership.

PAY MARIO!

30Duck

It can’t be any plainer JJ, Mario needs to get paid and the Ducks need to find someplace else to play!! Mari and his staff are building a winner, assembling a staff and the players to contend for the Championship, to be the Clemson of the West. But, it won’t happen if the Ducks are tethered to the Pac-12. It doesn’t track on a simple cost and benefit analysis to remain status quo.

duckmo_bowl

I think that any article on the evolution of Johnny Johnson is incomplete if it fails to mention his incredible recovery from one of the droppiest droppers to one of the most sure-handed receivers between 2018 and 2019

Haywarduck

We have always had receivers go through development like JJ III did. With the addition of our new talent, I am not sure guys are going to have the time to do this. Much like our LB crew the receiving recruits are like nothing we have seen before.

It is exciting to think we now have the tall receivers we always dreamed about, but other teams signed. We still need the speedster, but I have a feeling that will happen soon enough.

In the past we innovated to an elite level, now we have the playas!

Last edited 1 month ago by Haywarduck
30Duck

Thanks for another inside look Coach. JJ lll definitely seemed to be finding his game later in the season as the Ducks marched to the conference title and Rose Bowl win. He is now a #1 receiver, and not just on the depth chart.