Jovon Bouknight coached in Logan, Utah, for 10 years before coaching in Lubbock, Texas, for about 10 weeks.
Then Mario Cristobal lured the longtime Utah State assistant away from Texas Tech to be Oregon’s new wide receivers coach.
“I’m still trying to get settled in,” Bouknight said of his blurry ride on the coaching carousel. He replaces Michael Johnson Sr., who left for Mississippi State. “But it’s a good thing. Sometimes these things happen. I think in the end, it’s all going to work out. I know that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
“The important thing right now is this program and getting these kids on track.”
All eyes were on Dillon Mitchell during Thursday’s pro day in the Moshofsky Center as the Pac-12’s leading receiver auditioned for NFL scouts.
The focus for the Ducks is finding a way to replace Mitchell’s 2018 production when Justin Herbert leaned on his favorite target for 75 receptions, 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"I’m not sure the exact person who is going to do it," Mitchell said after his workout. "I just think as a group it could be anybody."
Bouknight was hired to get some slumping upperclassmen back into the spotlight and make the most of the dynamic incoming talent.
“I knew we needed development with this group. That was the first thing coach mentioned within the interview process,” Bouknight said. “It’s going to be a process. We’ve got to start from the beginning. You can’t think that these kids know everything. You’ve got to go in understanding that you’ve got to start from day one stuff.”
Junior Jaylon Redd was the Ducks’ second-leading receiver last season with 433 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Johnny Johnson (215 yards, four touchdowns) and senior Brenden Schooler (203 yards, one touchdown) are also back.
All of the above contributed to the team’s dropped passes epidemic.
“I understand some of these kids were beat up last year, and I’m just talking mentally,” Bouknight said. “We’re going to install confidence. I’m going to build them up, I’m going to build their character up, and then I’m going to build the technique up.”
Through four spring practices, the returning players say they are buying what the new position coach is selling.
“Aggressive coaching style and very active. That’s exactly what I need and exactly what I want,” Redd said of his early impressions of Bouknight. “He’s very hands on, he has no problem getting out there and showing you exactly what he wants you to do. I’m a visual learner.”
The Redbox Bowl was a microcosm of the season for the receivers as the Ducks squeaked out a 7-6 victory on Herbert’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell.
“Dillon definitely separated himself from the rest of the guys last year,” Cristobal said. “But we would rather be able to spread it out. There were moments last year when we did. We need to get back to doing that, we’re capable of doing that. They’re working really hard.
“There will be some more faces. It’s time, and they know that.”
Redshirt freshmen Bryan Addison, Isaah Crocker and JJ Tucker and true freshman Josh Delgado are among the wave of young players looking to help replace Mitchell’s production in the fall.
Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson and incoming freshmen Mycah Pittman, JR Waters and Lance Wilhoite will also join the competition.
“Last year we had some lapses in our play,” Herbert said after Friday’s practice. “We were playing some pretty good football at one point, and if we could figure a way to get that going throughout the year that would be huge.”
Bouknight, a standout receiver at Wyoming who finished his career 20th in NCAA history in career receptions (250) and receiving yards (3,626), helped Utah State finish second nationally in scoring (47.5 ppg) and 11th in total offense (497.4 ypg) last season.
The Aggies’ 11-win campaign led to head coach Matt Wells getting the Texas Tech job and taking Bouknight with him before Cristobal came calling.
“I take a lot of pride in my craft, and technique has always been one of the things that I kind of harp on and one of the solid things in my core,” Bouknight. “(Cristobal) knew I was a technician but very passionate, too.
“The guys that I put out on the field, the product that I out out on the field on Saturdays is a huge reflection of me.”