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Texas coaches asking WR Collin Johnson to get physical

The sophomore looks poised for a big season.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

At 6’6 and 220 pounds, Texas Longhorns wide receiver Collin Johnson is a physically-imposing figure on the football field as he attempts to build on a freshman season that saw him record 28 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

During preseason camp, Johnson has earned praise from head coach Tom Herman and wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer.

“I've never had a guy with his height and ball skills and ability to contort his body and have that much body control,” Herman said.

Indeed, the California product does truly possess remarkable motor skills — during the summer of 2016, he posted a video doing a backflip on a beach while catching a football with one hand.

And during preseason camp this fall, he’s made catches like this one:

Those plays in practice come after a big Orange-White game in which Johnson caught eight passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. As he did against Texas Tech last fall with two touchdowns, Johnson was dominant in the red zone against a smaller cornerback in Eric Cuffee.

To take the next developmental step, however, both Herman and Mehringer have challenged the big wide receiver to become more physical.

"Hey, you check a lot of boxes. Height, ball skills, speed, want-to, all that stuff. It's can you be physical?" Herman asked Johnson in late July.

So far, the response has been positive, according to both coaches.

“The thing that he’s really improved on is, in the spring I told him I didn’t think he had the physical toughness to play this position at an elite level,” Mehringer said. “He’s come out in fall camp, he’s played this game a lot more physical. That’s in the run game, that’s blocking, and that’s in the pass game with balls in the air. He’s done a good job, I think, of developing that side of his game, which I did not think existed in the spring.”

The blocking issues were something of a surprise, as Johnson showed well in that area of his game as a sophomore in high school, when he spent most of the season opening running lanes for his older brother, Kirk, a junior Texas running back.

But it clearly took some time for the younger Johnson to transition that area of his game to the college level, in addition to getting stronger and learning how to use his body as a pass catcher.

Now that the close friend of sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele has started to make strides in those areas, Johnson could become one of the team’s breakout stars in 2017 as a physical mismatch on the outside capable of dominating smaller cornerbacks in multiple areas of the game.

Texas WR Collin Johnson ready for big sophomore season

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Posted by Burnt Orange Nation on Monday, March 27, 2017