Juwan Johnson Shows Up In First Career Start
The physically-imposing redshirt sophomore, who led the Nittany Lions with 84 yards on four catches, possesses just about every desirable trait a coach would want in his ideal receiver. Johnson put those on display all afternoon, but it’s the finer points of his game that bode well for his imminent future. Johnson wasn’t afraid to be physical — which he showed after fearlessly taking a big hit over the middle on a long completion.
That play in particular stood out from the rest, and he knows it. “It feels good,” Johnson said. “I would like to consider myself a tough kid. Taking a hit for the team — we had to get that first down. We can’t afford me going across the middle, getting hit, and not catching the ball. I had to take one or the other.”
Johnson acknowledged an early drop in the right corner of the endzone that would’ve been a surefire touchdown. He doesn’t factor conditions — he knows his reliability is legitimate.
“I missed a couple balls out there honestly, I feel like I can make a lot of them,” Johnson said. “I am going to look back and, you know, hate it, but it’s just something I can build off of and get better from. It doesn’t matter if it’s wet or dry — a drop is a drop. It doesn’t say ‘it’s dry, that’s why he dropped it,’ it doesn’t matter. I just have to move forward; next week I have to look forward to not dropping any.”
It was a stellar day for Johnson and teammate DeAndre Thompkins, who had a career day of his own with 127 yards and a score on four punt returns. Both figure to remain integral components of Penn State’s offensive attack, but Thompkins’ special teams presence adds a new dimension.
“I’m really proud of him to be honest,” Johnson said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s kind of the Buffalo game two years ago where he almost had one but got tripped up. I’m just glad he got one under his belt.”
After all the offseason hype, one might assume Johnson would have a reasonable understanding of where he’d like to be. But that isn’t the case — and it’s a mindset that could play into his performance as the season goes on. He’s ready to validate not just his hype, but the lofty expectations surrounding the Nittany Lions.
“I just go out there and I just honestly play,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have any personal goals set out for this season — I’ve been asked multiple times why. I just want to go out there and play, and I feel it’s better if I just go out there instead of setting myself these limits.”
Pitt has quite the test next weekend with one of Trace McSorley’s new favorite targets. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if Johnson extends his good form into one of the biggest rivalry matchups of the season.