Johnson: Ready and willing

Ready or not, Andre Johnson will be taking center stage this season as one of the Hurricanes highly-touted, but inexperienced receivers. Johnson is prepared to meet the challenge.

The soft tone in his voice and the long pauses between words coming out of his mouth would signify that he isn't at his best in front of the camaras and microphones.

A few minutes spent with him and some might walk away wondering if he has what it takes when the bright lights are turned on September 1 at Beaver Stadium in Penn State.

Gone are Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Andre King-all responsible for naturing the young man the Hurricanes expect to fill some very big shoes this season.

The same young man that many are comparing to former UM All-American and Dallas Cowboys' receiver Micheal Irvin. The same young man who caught just three passes as a freshman last season.

"I don't feel any pressure. I don't pay any attention to all that stuff," said Johnson, who will most likely start opposite Daryl Jones against the Nittany Lions next week. "I can't get caught up in all the articles and everything being said about me. I just have to go out there and produce. If I produce, people won't be pointing me out anymore."

With the departure of the Hurricanes top three receivers from a year ago to the NFL, two first-rounders and a seventh-rounder, the No. 2 team in the country is banking that Johnson will rise into more than just a kick-off return man. Try one of their premier receivers.

Aside from not getting wrapped up in all things being written about him, Johnson is determined to display the potential that made him a Parade All-American and first team All-State at Miami Senior High School. All Johnson did as a senior was catch 31 passes for 908 yards and 15 touchdowns.

"I've got to keep working no matter what because nothing is going to be handed to me," Johnson said. "The team expects me to deliver and I'm going to do everything possible to make that work. I have to take it one step at a time. I can't go out there thinking I can do it all. That will only hurt me."

Some people around Coral Gables seem to think Johnson will put on a cape and do it all. Johnson's combination of speed, strength and will to make catches over the middle just add fuel to the comparisons to Irvin.

Just like Irvin, who set numerous receiving records at Miami before moving on to stardom with the Cowboys, Johnson won't back down from whatever task he may be asked to do. But unlike Irvin, Johnson is keeping quiet. For now, anyway.

"I look at it this way. Andre Johnson hasn't done anything at the University of Miami," Johnson said. "Once I step on the field then we'll see if everybody is right. But if I we're you, I wouldn't bet they're not."

Johnson worked hard in the off-season to make sure he's on the same page with junior quarterback Ken Dorsey. Johnson, along with the rest of the receiving corp, held daily sessions with Dorsey in hopes of improving their route-running and timing with the Heisman hopeful. He has earned the respect and admiration of the guy that will be firing passes his way this fall.

"Andre has worked extremly hard," Dorsey said. "He has all the tools to be a special player and there is no doubt in my mind he will be."

Dorsey is also not worried about Johnson's ability to step up in the clutch this season.

"He is one of those guys that can make that tough five yard catch in a crowd or he can turn around and beat you up the field. Andre is an asset to this team in a lot of different ways. He's going to do some nice things for us."

Johnson, who chose Miami over Southern California, sat out the 1999 season after being redshirted. He started his career at UM last season, appearing in every game as a receiver and kickoff return man. Although he caught just one touchdown pass all season, Johnson did average 20.8 yards per return.

Getting his feet wet last season was a start, but Johnson wants to soak in much more this season. He wouldn't mind if the Hurricanes season ended with the team standing in the middle of the Rose Bowl. Ready to receive the national championship.

"That is everybody's goal," Johnson said. "If we take care of business things will work out. We need to take this thing one game at a time."

Andre Johnson is ready to get started.

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