Texas Longhorns wide receiver Collin Johnson was expected to enjoy a breakout campaign in 2017.
For a variety of reasons, those expectations never materialized.
Yes, Johnson did lead the Longhorns with 54 receptions for 765 yards, but that team-best effort ranked just 81st nationally and 14th in the Big 12, and yes, Johnson did haul in 26 more receptions for 450 more yards than his freshman campaign, but it wasn’t quite the breakout season many expected from the 6-foot-6 wide out.
Simply put, Johnson took a step in the right direction, but the Longhorns star receiver is yet to throw his name into the mix as one of the top wide receivers in the pass-happy Big 12. Entering his junior season, that will once again be the expectation, and it’s one Johnson has for himself, as well.
“Being good is one thing, but being great, that takes a big stride,” Johnson said in a recent feature. “I’m trying to get better out on the practice field, in the film room and just overall as a teammate.”
Fortunately for the Longhorns, the early returns indicate that Johnson’s third season on the Forty Acres may be his best yet, and the proof is in the pass-catching.
Collin Johnson 😳 pic.twitter.com/VkP7rLFYIE
— Football Central™ (@FootbalICentral) March 23, 2018
Of course, undeniable athleticism and upside aside, to an extent, Johnson’s productivity isn’t entirely in his own hands. In 2017, Texas alternated starting quarterbacks on a seemingly game-by-game, and often even a drive-by-drive basis, as Shane Buechele finished with seven starts and Sam Ehlinger ended the season with six. The inconsistency at quarterback was only amplified by a injury-plagued offensive line that struggled mightily at times, and thus, prevented the running game from ever finding its footing.
All of the above makes for a recipe for failure, and although Johnson’s sophomore season wasn’t exactly a failure, it was far from the breakout campaign many expected.
How can Johnson help address the Texas’ offensive woes and assure they don’t persist next season?
“Each and every practice I take it for what it’s worth,“ Johnson said. “I gotta give everything I’ve got on this practice because I’ve got to prove myself each and every day.”
The good news?
Johnson’s name has frequently been mentioned as a headliner in an offensive unit, that by comparison, looked improved over the 2017 product that was often difficult to watch.
The bad news?
Despite the reports of overall progress, there’s still cause for concern regarding the Longhorns offensive line, Ehlinger, nor Buechele have separated themselves as the clear starting quarterback, and furthermore, the same can be said for the backfield, which is still without a bona fide starting running back. Each are problems that served as a dark cloud over offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s debut season, and with spring football coming to a close, those problems still reportedly persist, although to a notably lesser extent.
For a Longhorns offense devoid of many proven commodities, Johnson certainly serves as a glimmer of light. If Johnson is to shine as brightly as expected, though, the pieces around him will have to fit together much more comfortably in 2018.