If the last 24 hours are of any indication, Texas Longhorns football may very well be on it's way back to its rightful place at the top. That begins with the high school talent head coach Charlie Strong and his staff have been able to lure to Austin. But while the fireworks sparked by the small army of National Signing Day commits and signees have stolen the show and catapulted Texas to the No. 11-ranked recruiting class that headlines the Big 12, one of the most impressive and immediately impactful 2016 signees may be a talent already on campus.
After making the journey to Austin as an early enrollee all the way from San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian., Collin Johnson may very well be the most likely candidate to serve as Texas' most valuable freshman in 2016. A 6'6, 205-pound wide receiver and consensus four-star recruit, Johnson has all the makings of being next season's John Burt, the breakout true freshman receiver that headlined the Longhorns receiving corps in 2015.
For Texas to find success in Gilbert's version of the "veer and shoot", Heard or whomever the starting quarterback may be when Notre Dame comes to Austin September 3 quite simply needs to have reliable options outside. This wasn't quite the case last season -- as noted, true freshman John Burt headlined the receiving corps with only 28 receptions and a team-high 457 yards, the lowest leading receiving effort since Tony Jeffery's 437 in 2004. At least two receivers have topped Burt's efforts every season in that same time period.
And now, in turning the focus to 2016, Texas will need to find answers after losing Daje Johnson and Marcus Johnson. The former caught a team-high 37 passes and the absence of both leaves Burt and Armanti Foreman as the only Longhorn receivers with at least 10 receptions last season.
This is why the addition of Collin Johnson, the little brother of freshman running back Kirk Johnson, becomes so significant.
The initial eye test suggests Johnson is a playmaker in waiting, and that waiting may cease as soon as he suits up on the first Saturday in September. At 6'6, he's a massive target, and his tremendous possession instincts and ability to go snag the ball at its highest point provide plenty of optimism for Johnson's future in burnt orange.
While he can use some coaching in route running and minor mechanics, the areas he excels in as a potential immediate deep threat should prove beneficial for Texas in multiple facets over the next handful of months entering spring football, and ultimately, for years to come. He's also a willing and effective blocker after spending most of his sophomore season working in that role to help his brother turn short gains into long runs.
Between Johnson joining Texas on campus a few months early, and wide receiver signees like Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, Davion Curtis, and Lil'Jordan Humphrey set to join the team during the summer, Texas seemingly overnight found some tremendous potential and skill outside. And because of his tremendous natural size and ball-hawking instincts, it's not far-fetched to assume Johnson will be Texas starting wide receiver opposite of Burt. With uncertainty still surrounding the quarterback situation in Austin, whomever eventually emerges as the 2016 starter should enter with two towering, reliable big play threats on the hashes, with skill guys that can make plays in space like Armanti Foreman and Hemphill-Mapps in the slots.
Watching his film, I can't help but draw comparisons to a former Longhorn in Limas Sweed, with the size, possession instincts and downfield capabilities. But unlike Sweed, Johnson may very well conclude his time at Texas with a 1,000-yard season or two under his belt.
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