Don’t Count Out Juwan Johnson

“Well, I sort of really don’t care about people’s opinions. Whatever they say, I don’t really pay attention to it.”

Penn State’s star receiver Juwan Johnson isn’t here for criticism from the peanut gallery.

Through five games this season, he hasn’t produced the world-beating numbers that have been expected of him since he arrived on campus. He’s registered receptions in four of those games, hauling in a healthy 202 yards and one score.

The numbers don’t scream anything positive or negative of the start to this season for one of Trace McSorley’s key targets.

But if anything’s concerned the Penn State public the most about Johnson’s play, it’s undoubtedly the slew of dropped passes that have plagued drives and his numbers alike.

Seven drops in five games certainly doesn’t build confidence for a player or anyone around the program.

Hiccups happen throughout a career, especially for a receiver. If you look at recent team history, it’s not an uncommon theme for some of the bigger-name targets to go through struggles.

It’s all about how you deal with it as a player, and it doesn’t hurt to have former teammates close who have been in a similar spotlight before.

“I talk to Mike [Gesicki] a lot and I talk to DaeSean [Hamilton] a ton,” Johnson said. “Those guys really helped me out, saying, like, ‘man, how’s it going,’ and they are pretty much saying, ‘it’s all good, it’s all part of the process. You’re going to have hiccups and you’re going to have bumps.'”

Whether you’re looking at Gesicki or Hamilton, both have suffered the fate of failing to reach the very high expectations set for them during portions of their careers.

Gesicki, the nation’s top-ranked tight end coming out of high school, hauled in just 239 yards and one touchdown in his first two years in Happy Valley. He dealt with all the questions you could ask of a young prodigy turned “offensive liability.”

Fast forward to the 2016 and 2017 slates, and the future second round NFL Draft pick became an irreplaceable force in Penn State’s back-to-back runs to New Years Six bowls — finishing his four seasons with 1,481 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, both Penn State records.

Hamilton’s career may have even taken a more roundabout route.

After a freshman season when he led the team with 899 receiving yards, Hamilton became more of a threat in the end zone with a team-high six touchdowns despite a major decrease in yardage.

He had neither team-leading accolade in 2016, facing questions throughout the campaign filled with struggles. The low point may well be a drop that surely would have been the game-winning touchdown on the final drive of Penn State’s loss to Pitt. The gaffe was still on his mind following the Nittany Lions’ win over Pitt a year later.

Despite the questions, Hamilton rebounded during his senior season. He hauled in team highs in receiving yards and touchdowns, finishing his career as the school’s all-time leader in receptions and second in receiving yards.

The point of it all isn’t that Johnson can learn from these players; he already is by keeping the past in the past. The real takeaway: players slump. If Gesicki and Hamilton can make it through their on-field struggles to be remembered as Beaver Stadium legends, then how can you doubt this 6-foot-4 sheer athlete?

Especially if, through all the recent drops, he can haul in catches like this:

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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