Emmanuel Sanders, Aldrick Robinson, Cole Beasley and now… Darius Johnson.
The senior wide out known as DJ3 around SMU circles has some big shoes to fill considering the aforementioned trio of receivers have all caught on with NFL teams, but Johnson has already proven he can handle being the top target in June Jones' pass-heavy Run N' Shoot offense.
Known for his acrobatic catches that have Mustang fans doing double takes, Johnson is ready to be Garrett Gilbert's new favorite toy and should benefit for the Texas transfer's big gun.
Last season, Johnson finished first on the team with 1,118 yards and eight touchdowns and only trailed Beasley in receptions. A dangerous threat out of the slot, Johnson should have no problem catching close to 100 balls and scoring double-digit touchdowns.
But DJ3 isn't the only option on this team. SMU will feature a plethora of young and talented wide outs filled with potential beginning with fellow slot receiver Jeremy Johnson.
Originally a quarterback at Tyler John Tyler, Johnson has been quietly learning his new position and has been waiting for a chance to showcase the freakish athletic abilities lying beneath his No. 17 jersey.
Johnson spent most of last season watching Beasley and getting advice from the current Dallas Cowboy. Johnson only had 16 catches for 146 yards and one touchdown the entire year, but showed flashes of what's to come in SMU's biggest win of 2011.
With Beasley out due to injury, Johnson was thrust into the starting line-up against ranked rival TCU. He didn't disappoint, nabbing six passes for 69 yards including the game winning touchdown grab in overtime that sent the entire SMU fan base into a frenzy.
With Johnson & Johnson shredding opposing defensive backfields, it seems Gilbert will finally be the quarterback to put up Timmy Chang-type numbers on the Hilltop.
On the outside, Gilbert will have a couple of speedsters to throw the long ball to. Der'rikk Thompson can flat out fly hence the nickname ‘bird.' Thompson took over for Keenan Holman, who went down with an injury early in the season, and never let go of the starting job.
The redshirt freshman had his fair share of growing pains but with a year under his belt, should be a go-to option. Thompson logged 30 receptions for 411 yards and three touchdowns and could easily double those numbers.
Holman will again top the depth chart this time as the Z receiver opposite of Thompson as the team heads into fall camp but will have to hold off a hungry Arrius Holleman.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder can be a huge playmaker on the outside and is just the type of tall target Gilbert can utilize in the red zone. He would be a perfect compliment to Thompson's speed, but the problem is his ability to grasp the offense.
There were some reports last season that Holleman had a bit of trouble learning his plays and was a bit immature as a true freshman. If he can finally develop mentally then physically, he'll have a sensational sophomore season if he can overtake Holman.
‘Ace' is surely one to watch as is incoming freshman Gehrig Dieter, who has been on the Hilltop since spring. Although he hardly participated due to an injury, Dieter was able to get a first-hand look at the playbook and the way college football works.
Like Holleman, Dieter (6-3, 200) is a huge target on the outside that can simply make plays happen when the ball is in the air. As a senior at South Bend Washington (IN), Dieter set a national record with 447 yards receiving in a game and finished the year with 75 catches for 1,988 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Overall, this group has some nice depth and if Jones chooses to, receivers can come on and off the field without missing beat.
New Position Coach: With Jeff Reinebold taking his talents to Canada, June Jones decided to bring on a former player in Jason Phillips. Phillips played for both the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons under Jones and that NFL experience will only make him a more respected figure amongst this group of young SMU wide outs. Phillips joined the staff this spring after serving as the offensive coordinator for Houston, which featured one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation. At SMU, he will be the co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach and should be a nice replacement for Reinebold.
Pony Stampede Two-Deep:
X- 1. Der'rikk Thompson 2. Gehrig Dieter
H- 1. Darius Johnson 2. Darius Joseph
Y- 1. Jeremy Johnson 2. Ronnell Sims
Z- 1. Keenan Holman 2. Arrius Holleman
Others to watch:
Sr. Cole Loftin, So. Kyle Guinyard, So. Stephen Nelson, Jr. Jordan Walker, Fr. Daijuan Stewart
Position Preview: Wide Receivers
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