Young receiver ready to become a presence

A lot of Wildcat football fans don't know a whole lot about Anthony Johnson. He came into the program with little fanfare and toiled in obscurity as he redshirted a year ago. This year he's ready to make an impact and should see the field as a major part of the offense.

The Wildcats receiving corps has a lot of potential, but has yet to fully realize their talent as an elite unit. The Cats return their top receivers from a year ago, but a new addition could push them over the edge.

At 6-2 and over 200 pounds, Johnson is one of the team's biggest receivers. He has decent speed, but his strength and size are what make him so intriguing.

Johnson describes himself as a physical presence on the field. While many players were struggling with the new workout plan in January, Johnson was adapting. His brother is a former NFL player and gave him a pretty good indication on what to expect.

"I'm a physical receiver,"Johnson said. "After training I got a little more muscle on me so I feel more comfortable taking hits and giving hits.

The Wildcats really don't have a receiver who can abuse defensive backs and that has not gone unnoticed by the Wildcat coaches.

"I think he can be real physical," said receivers coach Charlie Williams. "I like his height and his body structure."

While other players were struggling with the new workout plan back in January, Johnson was adapting. Johnson was prepared for the rigors of Mike Stoops' new training program. His brother Chris is a former NFL player and new full well what Stoops would be bringing with him from Oklahoma.

"He told me to always work hard," Johnson said of his brother. "It does not take talent to work hard, that's the only thing he ever told me. Since I was a little boy he told me to work hard."

Johnson's work in the weight room and on the field made an impression on his position coach.

"It's been great just getting to work with him," Williams said. "He's doing the right things and if he's not doing them right, he's doing them full speed.

"Anthony's having some fun. He's working hard, like I like them to work. Full speed ahead. If he's going to make a mistake, he's going to make a mistake going full speed."

Johnson certainly passes the eyeball test. He is quite strong and muscular, and moves very well with the muscle. He's not a bodybuilder type ala David Boston, but he does have the nice frame that NFL teams have been coveting the last few years.

Johnson came to Arizona as a fairly low-rated recruit. He came from a very small school in the San Diego area and really didn't have a set position. The former staff saw his raw athleticism and decided that he had enough talent that he could learn a position.

Horizon High School has just a hair over 300 students and a football team that had to play with 11 players at times. Because of a lack of bodies, Johnson played receiver, quarterback, safety, linebacker, kick returner, punt returner plus punter and place kicker.

He came to Arizona with every intention of playing, but soon realized that he was not ready. Not only did he have to learn the receiver position but he wasn't physically ready. He had the athleticism, but needed the strength.

"I thought I'd come into play," Johnson confessed. "About three quarters of the way through training camp. After taking some hits, seeing the speed of the game, it kinda hit me. I think it was the best thing for me because physically I was not ready. Mentally I think I was, but not physically. Going from high school to college is a big difference."

Johnson has had to learn another offense, after spending last season trying to adapt to his first collegiate offense. The transition does not seem to be as tough as he and others would have thought.

"This offense is actually pretty simple," Johnson confessed. "Things are going pretty smoothly. We have great coaching, that's why it is so easy. Coach (Mike) Canales, Coach Williams and Coach (Gene) Johnson, our assistant wide receiver coach, they are breaking every thing down. It's all about patience and technique. You can be fast and you can be strong, but if you don't have great patience and practice technique, then things won't work out."

Although Johnson is the "physical receiver" he knows that having just one role won't cut it. The coaches have stressed becoming complete players and Johnson has taken that to heart.

"They want us to be diverse, not focused on one thing but able to be the total package," Johnson said. "I can do a lot of things on the field and I'll try and add that to our group and to the team."

Johnson knows he has made a great impression, but he doesn't necessarily know just how much he will be used. Although his spring was very good, he still has to go out an prove himself in fall camp. With Ricky Williams, Biren Ealy, Mike Jefferson, Syndric Steptoe plus a pair of incoming freshmen, nothing will be easy.

"I'm just going to do my best, go out on the field and do the things I know I can do and hopefully things turn out for the best," said Johnson. "All I can do is come out here and go to work. I take it like it's a job. I have fun, but it's a job. So I come out to the field and work as hard as I can. I just give it my all and whatever happens after that is in the coaches' hands.


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