Harvey Levine/FOS

One-time 4-star WR Juwan Johnson is ready to break out at Penn State

Juwan Johnson is ready to burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore receiver at Penn State. Scout takes a look at the talent that's been inside the player for years.

A bulked up and mature Juwan Johnson is one of Penn State's breakout players in the spring, giving the Nittany Lions faithful reason for the huge excitement Scout had in first evaluating him nearly six years ago.

Yes, six years ago.

When Johnson committed to Penn State in the 2015 class as a four-star prospect and one of the top receivers in the East, big things were expected. He was 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, and athletic. He was pegged as a prospect who could contribute right away, but sometimes a path to the field goes takes a circuitous route. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1770430-penn-state-footbal...

For Johnson, it meant red-shirting as a freshman, and playing a limited role in 2016 in which he made two catches but was a key special teams contributor with nine tackles, which was second most on the team. It also meant adding size and strength, and he is now 218 pounds.

So, why is Johnson breaking out now? What did Scout see in him early in his high school career to make him a no-brainer four-star prospect?

It takes time -- more time for some -- for all to align, and that is happening for Johnson. He was long and lanky coming out of high school, and he jumped into a Penn State receiving corps with depth.

But from the first moment I saw him at Glassboro (N.J.) High, there was something different about him.

He was a 6-3, 180-poundish sophomore playing free safety at a small school in south Jersey, and he was dominant. He moved well, read the game and he was athletic. He was came up to hit in the running game, and he covered the sidelines in the passing game. He had five interceptions, and played for one of the best teams in south Jersey, but was also overshadowed by a running back named Corey Clement.

From there, I followed his career through camps, combines, 7-on-7s and, of course, games. I saw him live more than a dozen times, and each time I left feeling the same way.

He needed to get stronger, and he needed to work on his flexibility so he could be cleaner with his route running, but he was going to be a big-time player in college.

Johnson had so many things going his way.

He needed technique refinement, not an overhaul. He was quick off the line of scrimmage, was quick to locate the ball and his hands were huge, which enabled him to secure the ball quickly. He was physical running after the catch. His length and leaping ability gave his quarterback a sense of trust when throwing a ball into coverage, and Johnson often came down with it.

He was a red-zone threat then, and should be one in the coming seasons at Penn State because of his ability to track the ball and use his size. Johnson had instincts to make plays in traffic. His footwork was also clean, even when he had to spin to make a catch on a poorly thrown pass.

There was also the speed aspect. 

Although Johnson was not the quickest in and out of his breaks, he ran in the 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash. For a kid with his long stride and arm length, in addition to being a target over the middle.

Sometimes players enter college and the adjustment happens rapidly. Other times, it is not as simple.

Johnson's path appears a bit longer, but the important part is getting to the planned destination. After a strong spring, Johnson is close to arriving.


Fight On State Top Stories

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A bulked up and mature Juwan Johnson is one of Penn State's breakout players in the spring, giving the Nittany Lions faithful reason for the huge excitement Scout had in first evaluating him nearly six years ago.

\n

Yes, six years ago.

\n

When Johnson committed to Penn State in the 2015 class as a four-star prospect and one of the top receivers in the East, big things were expected. He was 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, and athletic. He was pegged as a prospect who could contribute right away, but sometimes a path to the field goes takes a circuitous route. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1770430-penn-state-footbal...

\n

For Johnson, it meant red-shirting as a freshman, and playing a limited role in 2016 in which he made two catches but was a key special teams contributor with nine tackles, which was second most on the team. It also meant adding size and strength, and he is now 218 pounds.

\n

So, why is Johnson breaking out now? What did Scout see in him early in his high school career to make him a no-brainer four-star prospect?

\n

It takes time -- more time for some -- for all to align, and that is happening for Johnson. He was long and lanky coming out of high school, and he jumped into a Penn State receiving corps with depth.

\n

But from the first moment I saw him at Glassboro (N.J.) High, there was something different about him.

\n

He was a 6-3, 180-poundish sophomore playing free safety at a small school in south Jersey, and he was dominant. He moved well, read the game and he was athletic. He was came up to hit in the running game, and he covered the sidelines in the passing game. He had five interceptions, and played for one of the best teams in south Jersey, but was also overshadowed by a running back named Corey Clement.

\n

From there, I followed his career through camps, combines, 7-on-7s and, of course, games. I saw him live more than a dozen times, and each time I left feeling the same way.

\n

He needed to get stronger, and he needed to work on his flexibility so he could be cleaner with his route running, but he was going to be a big-time player in college.

\n

Johnson had so many things going his way.

\n

He needed technique refinement, not an overhaul. He was quick off the line of scrimmage, was quick to locate the ball and his hands were huge, which enabled him to secure the ball quickly. He was physical running after the catch. His length and leaping ability gave his quarterback a sense of trust when throwing a ball into coverage, and Johnson often came down with it.

\n

He was a red-zone threat then, and should be one in the coming seasons at Penn State because of his ability to track the ball and use his size. Johnson had instincts to make plays in traffic. His footwork was also clean, even when he had to spin to make a catch on a poorly thrown pass.

\n

There was also the speed aspect. 

\n

Although Johnson was not the quickest in and out of his breaks, he ran in the 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash. For a kid with his long stride and arm length, in addition to being a target over the middle.

\n

Sometimes players enter college and the adjustment happens rapidly. Other times, it is not as simple.

\n

Johnson's path appears a bit longer, but the important part is getting to the planned destination. After a strong spring, Johnson is close to arriving.

","mobileBody":"

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A bulked up and mature Juwan Johnson is one of Penn State's breakout players in the spring, giving the Nittany Lions faithful reason for the huge excitement Scout had in first evaluating him nearly six years ago.

Yes, six years ago.

When Johnson committed to Penn State in the 2015 class as a four-star prospect and one of the top receivers in the East, big things were expected. He was 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, and athletic. He was pegged as a prospect who could contribute right away, but sometimes a path to the field goes takes a circuitous route. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1770430-penn-state-footbal...

For Johnson, it meant red-shirting as a freshman, and playing a limited role in 2016 in which he made two catches but was a key special teams contributor with nine tackles, which was second most on the team. It also meant adding size and strength, and he is now 218 pounds.

So, why is Johnson breaking out now? What did Scout see in him early in his high school career to make him a no-brainer four-star prospect?

It takes time -- more time for some -- for all to align, and that is happening for Johnson. He was long and lanky coming out of high school, and he jumped into a Penn State receiving corps with depth.

But from the first moment I saw him at Glassboro (N.J.) High, there was something different about him.

He was a 6-3, 180-poundish sophomore playing free safety at a small school in south Jersey, and he was dominant. He moved well, read the game and he was athletic. He was came up to hit in the running game, and he covered the sidelines in the passing game. He had five interceptions, and played for one of the best teams in south Jersey, but was also overshadowed by a running back named Corey Clement.

From there, I followed his career through camps, combines, 7-on-7s and, of course, games. I saw him live more than a dozen times, and each time I left feeling the same way.

He needed to get stronger, and he needed to work on his flexibility so he could be cleaner with his route running, but he was going to be a big-time player in college.

Johnson had so many things going his way.

He needed technique refinement, not an overhaul. He was quick off the line of scrimmage, was quick to locate the ball and his hands were huge, which enabled him to secure the ball quickly. He was physical running after the catch. His length and leaping ability gave his quarterback a sense of trust when throwing a ball into coverage, and Johnson often came down with it.

He was a red-zone threat then, and should be one in the coming seasons at Penn State because of his ability to track the ball and use his size. Johnson had instincts to make plays in traffic. His footwork was also clean, even when he had to spin to make a catch on a poorly thrown pass.

There was also the speed aspect.

Although Johnson was not the quickest in and out of his breaks, he ran in the 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash. For a kid with his long stride and arm length, in addition to being a target over the middle.

Sometimes players enter college and the adjustment happens rapidly. Other times, it is not as simple.

Johnson's path appears a bit longer, but the important part is getting to the planned destination. After a strong spring, Johnson is close to arriving.

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