Juwan Johnson And Irvin Charles Will Take Passing Game To New Heights
It pays to be tall. Just ask Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson.
Penn State’s towering redshirt freshman wide receivers spent 2015 getting acclimated to the college game on the practice field, but make no mistake, these Garden State giants will cause plenty of headaches for opposing defensive coordinators this coming fall. Either could have played during their first season on campus, yet given the Nittany Lions’ über deep receiving corps, it simply wasn’t necessary.
Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall, Brandon Polk, and DeAndre Thompkins will all be back in 2016, giving new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead an abundance of weapons in the passing game, but the added element of Johnson and Charles is one of the more exciting storylines to follow this spring and summer.
It certainly won’t hurt Penn State’s offense to have a pair of behemoth pass-catchers to help break in its new quarterback, regardless of whether it’s Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens, or Jake Zembiec. At the very least, Johnson and Charles will provide an intimidating presence in the red zone with their ability to sky over shorter defensive backs.
The Nittany Lions haven’t had a receiver with this type of perimeter presence on their roster since Derek Moye; now they have two. Though Johnson may technically have a few inches on Charles given his Nerlens Noel-like flattop, they’re listed at exactly the same frame on Penn State’s roster (6-foot-4, 213 pounds).
After balling out at Nike’s The Opening in Beaverton, Ore., Johnson saw the scholarship offers roll in from a host of the nation’s top programs — including Alabama and Big Ten East foe Ohio State — but the U.S. Army All-American felt at home in State College. Johnson, who’s already being called “Megatron, Jr.” for his Calvin Johnson-esque skill set, was considered the third-best prospect from New Jersey, according to 247Sports. He was also named first-team all-state in 2014 alongside classmate and offensive guard Steven Gonzalez.
After receiving the green light from James Franklin during training camp this past summer, Johnson looked like a shoe-in to see the field right off the bat, but instead, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis was able to fine-tune his skills behind the scenes. Now, with his first year in the rear-view mirror, Johnson has a chance to break out during spring practice and show the Nittany Lion faithful what he can do in the Blue-White Game on April 16, which unfortunately will not be televised.
Coming out of Paul VI High School, Charles was a highly sought-after recruit in his own right, picking up offers from the Crimson Tide, Buckeyes, Miami, and Michigan State, among others. The Sicklerville, N.J., native has plans to take Penn State’s aerial attack to new heights by providing another layer to an already-loaded bunch of wideouts. Impressive stature notwithstanding, Charles has the potential to be quite special in Moorhead’s offense for a variety of reasons (he’s been clocked at 4.50 flat in the 40-yard dash) and 2016 is just the beginning.
With a year of invaluable experience under their belts, Johnson and Charles can help another wide-eyed freshman get up to speed: 6-foot-4 Baltimore product Dae’lun Darien, who flipped his commitment from Temple to the Nittany Lions 48 hours before National Signing Day.
It won’t be easy to crack the rotation with so much proven talent ahead of them on the depth chart — but if anyone can do it this offseason, it’s these two. Hey Jim and Urban, have fun drawing up a scheme to shut this duo down.