Juwan Johnson has been a standout in spring camp for Penn State
April 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Penn State wide receiver Juwan Johnson is working toward being the successor to Chris Godwin, who left after his junior season and entered the NFL draft.
By Omari Sankofa II / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Standing 6 feet 4 and weighing 218 pounds, Juwan Johnson came to Penn State with the look and build of a dominant wide receiver.
Based on reviews from his coaching staff and teammates, his ability is beginning to catch up to his big frame.
A season after registering two catches for 70 yards through 14 games in 2016, the redshirt sophomore has been a standout during spring workouts, which conclude with Saturday’s Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium. Head coach James Franklin said Johnson has taken a mature, aggressive approach to the offseason, and it’s been evident based on his performance in practices.
“He’s a mature guy and he’s a smart guy, so he’s really just made a significant jump from the end of the season until now,” Franklin said last week. “It’s been him identifying what his strengths and weaknesses are through conversations with his position coach as well as myself and say I’m going to work hard at those areas and make those weaknesses strengths.”
Johnson’s teammates — specifically senior quarterback Trace McSorley and senior tight end Mike Gesicki — compared him to wide receiver Chris Godwin, who declared for the NFL draft after tallying 59 catches for 982 yards and a Penn State junior-record 11 touchdowns last year.
“I think that you can kind of see similarities in the way that they attack the ball and the way that they prepare, so Juwan learned behind Chris the past two years,” Gesicki said. “I think it’s been extremely beneficial. Chris is, in my opinion, one of the best receivers in the country. Learning behind him was huge.”
It would be easy to predict Gesicki, who was second on the team in total receptions (48) and receiving yards (679) in 2016, will be McSorley’s favorite target next season. But the tight end expects a competitive offseason as players try to fill the void left by Godwin.
DaeSean Hamilton (34), DeAndre Thompkins (27) and Saeed Blacknall (15) are the returning Penn State receivers who tallied double-digit receptions last season. Yet it’s Johnson receiving much of the buzz leading up to the spring game.
McSorley said Johnson has been a regular in the weight room, and that hard work is translating onto the field.
“For the team to see him doing that and to see it paying off on the field, I think that’s why you’re starting to hear his name more,” McSorley said. “You love seeing guys that put in all the work and it comes into fruition on the field. On top of that he’s big, fast, strong, he’s running routes clean, he’s getting separation. He’s just done a tremendous job in each period, continuing to get better.”
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