When Juwan Johnson was not on the field for the early periods of Oregon football practice open to the media Wednesday, the injury list at wide receiver appeared to have snagged another target.
Then Johnson was spotted in uniform when rain sent the Ducks inside the Moshofsky Center, although he was on the sideline doing individual work.
New wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight put any rumors of another six-to-eight week injury for his group to rest by clearing up that Johnson was one of a few receivers battling cramps.
“He’s going to be fine,” Bouknight said after practice. “I am expecting him to be back any day. We’ve got to be smart and I’ve got to limit his reps. He’s going to be ready for game time. If there was a game this week, he’d be ready.”
Johnson’s highly-anticipated debut for the 11th-ranked Ducks remains on schedule for Aug. 31 when they open against No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Texas. The 6-foot-4 grad transfer from Penn State, who had 79 catches for 1,053 yards during the last two seasons, is expected to be a starter on the outside for the Ducks.
Oregon’s depth chart at wide receiver has fluctuated throughout fall camp in part because of injuries.
Brenden Schooler, who was also with the first-team offense early in camp, is expected to miss the first four of five games with a foot injury. Freshman Mycah Pittman is out six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury suffered during Saturday’s scrimmage. Oregon is also without true freshman JR Waters, who could miss six weeks following foot surgery and true freshman Lance Wilhoite has also been limited in camp due to an injury.
“Right now, we are just trying to be smart about everyone,” Bouknight said. “There are a lot of precautionary movements. As we get closer to game week, we have to be smart. A couple guys are getting cramps and nicked up and bruised up, so we have to be smart. The main thing now is to develop the young guys because that could happen in a game so we need to make sure they are ready and available.”
Oregon still has a veteran group of starters available at the position with juniors Johnny Johnson and Jaylon Redd likely lining up alongside Juwan Johnson. There isn't a lot of experience behind that trio with true freshman Josh Delgado and redshirt freshman Bryan Addison being the first names mentioned by Bouknight as replacements for the injured players.
“As you lose guys, you think about the next guy behind them,” Bouknight said. “We’ve got to develop that guy because now he’s the starter. Obviously those are big losses for our position, but we’ve got some special guys. … We’re confident with our group and what we have in place now.”
Pittman was playing with the second unit behind Redd in the slot, but Delgado appears to have filled in that spot.
“We feel confident with Redd and Josh being the slot guys,” Bouknight said. “Even Johnny has done some stuff in the slot. The way we move our pieces around, we’ll be fine at the slot position. Losing Mycah was a tremendous loss, but we are very confident as far as that slot spot.”
Bouknight said Pittman is working to return earlier than expected.
“That kid is a warrior,” he said. “He expects to be back in Week 2, that’s how he’s always approached it. He’s going to get right back on that saddle real quick. He’s going to play this year. He’s going to contribute."