Mario Cristobal figures that junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson looked inward prior to fall camp.
“He’s one of those guys who said ‘Enough is enough, it is my time’ and he’s shown that in the way he approaches his craft and practice,” the Oregon football coach said. “He’s been through a lot. We all have our ups and downs, but we like sticking by our guys and we’ve stuck by him. He’s ready to have his kind of year.”
Johnson had 21 catches for 299 yards as a true freshman before dropping to 17 catches for 215 yards as a sophomore while catching all four of his touchdown passes in the first three nonconference games of the season. The arrival of wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight gave Johnson a fresh start.
“I think I really locked in and brought my skills to full potential,” Johnson said after Tuesday's practice. “I think it is a mindset change. Coach Bouknight implemented some great thing to help me become a better receiver.”
Johnson isn’t revealing any more details.
“I don’t really want to get into it, but it is a lot,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Jaylon Redd are the receivers with the most experience in Oregon’s offense after senior Brenden Schooler suffered a foot injury that will keep him out for at least the first month of the season. Johnson moved up to the first-team offense following Schooler’s injury and will start 11th-ranked Oregon’s opener at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Texas.
“I think it’s maturity, the things you’d expect with his number of reps and that’s how you hope guys evolve,” UO offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “He’s done a real nice job.”
Johnson joins Redd and graduate transfer Juwan Johnson as the only veterans in a wide receiver group that has also lost freshmen JR Waters and Mycah Pittman to injury.
“Johnny has really stepped up,” Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert said. “He’s had a great camp and he’s a guy we can count on to make big plays.”