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Penn State Football: Johnson Already Poised For Big 2018

by on November 27, 2017 3:30 PM

Any other year and you may have noticed Juwan Johnson.

Sure, you saw him against Iowa, that one was hard to miss. But the rest of the way? He's just another guy catching another Trace McSorley pass to one of his million different targets.

But consider this, Johnson has 48 receptions with a game left to play. Twelve more (an unlikely total to be met) would make Johnson one of six Penn State players to break the 60 receptions mark in a season. After a slow start to the year and a bad outing against Michigan State, Johnson has slowly climbed his way up the single-seasons receptions list. A consistent force on an offense that is one of the nation's best.

All while you were looking for Barkley.

It seems likely though that you won't be looking for him much longer, at least not on Saturdays. Barkley has only to announce his intentions to go pro to set off the "publish" button for a few dozen stories already written about his departure under the assumption that he is in fact headed to the NFL.

And that will mean finding the next "guy" the next name to be atop Penn State's list of offensive weapons.

Maybe it's Miles Sanders, or maybe McSorley restarts a Heisman campaign that may just have been more viable than Barkley's in the long run.

The best guess though, it's that 6-foot-4 receiver from New Jersey already 50 catches deep into his career.

"I don't really think about it," Johnson said, through a telling smile, after Penn State's 66-3 win over Maryland this weekend. "That's something Coach Franklin will determine. We've just got to focus on the bowl game."

Even if he doesn't want to admit it, the swagger is obvious. Johnson carries himself like the target that he is, towering over everyone around him. Where Chris Godwin may have been the outlet to more than a few McSorley bombs, Johnson has been a much more reliable every-down target in far more routine situations. If you squint you might even see former Nittany Lions Allen Robinson out there in the 84 jersey, although Johnson will have to do a bit more to take over Robinson's beloved perch atop the receptions list.

"It helped my confidence a lot," Johnson said of his season so far. "Just building that trust in myself that I can make the big plays."

"I just have to do what I need to do for the team. That's making plays, making blocks, helping young guys out either way just being a leader. There are things you've got to do to step up."

As for whoever might be throwing it to him in 2018, they'll have a lot to work with.

"It's awesome," McSorley said of Johnson. "His size his strength and his ability is really something that it's difficult for corners to cover. So having him, being able to be a deep threat as well as be a great possession guy, make catches, break tackles, gain yardage for us. Having him as a receiver is awesome."

So maybe it's goodbye Saquon, but it might also be time for hello Juwan.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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