As a true freshman in a pass-happy league, Texas Longhorns quarterback Shane Buechele has been nothing short of superb and a deep and talented receiver pool deserves much of the praise.
Fellow true freshman Collin Johnson is the latest to make his presence felt on the receiving end of Buechele’s pitches and he did so in an essential area of the field against Texas Tech — the red zone.
Considering Johnson’s 6’6, 212-pound frame, the flashes of point-producing potential were expected. What served as a surprise, though, was Johnson’s developed awareness and the body control required to haul in a pair of touchdown receptions.
Take your pick as to which one was most impressive, but in any case, each catch was a brief example of why Johnson is physically comparable to a lab experiment gone terribly, terribly right.
While the masses are just recently seeing the fruits of Johnson’s offseason labor, the process began in January when Buechele and Johnson arrived on the 40 Acres as early enrollees.
The additional reps on nights such as Buechele and Johnson calling Charlie Strong for access to the Bubble because they were still practicing when the light went out at Clark Field are what ultimately go into producing the two difference-making touchdowns for the first Texas road win of the season.
Just like that, Johnson joined Armanti Foreman as the only Longhorns with two touchdown receptions in the red zone this season, and he’s the only receiver to add two in one outing.
Though the sample size is considerably small to positively proclaim Johnson as a bona fide red-zone threat, the tools are there if he continues to see the field more.
Through the first four games of the season, Johnson was sidelined much of the time while John Burt suffered through drops and Jerrod Heard thrived in his new role.
The same remains true for Burt, but Heard has since caught only five passes in five games, while Johnson has reeled in 14 receptions for 174 yards, including a current career-long 40-yard reception on yet another athletic display against Baylor.
With a 57.1 percent receiving success rate, which ties for second on the team with Armanti Foreman behind Jake Oliver per Football Study Hall, it’s quite likely Johnson’s 10.3 percent target rate climbs rapidly for Texas’ remaining three regular season games.
If his performance against Texas Tech was a glimpse of what’s to come, the vast majority of targets from within the red zone may be headed for the awaiting hands of the largest Texas receiving option — Collin Johnson.