Isaiah Johnson & Dezmon Patmon are big, physical, potentially special WRs, say prep coaches

MIKE MARTINEZ KNEW early on Dezmon Patmon could catch passes. The head coach of Patrick Henry High in San Deigo saw his receiver catch 21 touchdown passes as a JV sophomore, and 20 the following year on the varsity. But what elevated Patmon as a difference maker in Martinez's mind came during his senior season.

The future Cougar became a complete player.

"He turned into a better blocker, I thought. That's where I noticed his physicality. He was able to put a couple guys on their backs, no problem," Martinez said.

If the fact that 6-foot-4 Patmon is a willing blocker coming into Mike Leach's offense is music to the ears of Cougar fans, what really hits a pleasing note comes next from Martinez.

"He kind of reminds me of Michael Crabtree. It's funny, they have the same number (15). He's a big guy, a big physical guy who once he hits the weights in college and puts on that weight, he's going to be some kind of player," Martinez said.

Patmon joins the Washington State family on Feb. 3 when the San Diego receiver plans to sign a letter of intent.

He's not the only big, physical receiver joining the crimson fold. Isaiah Johnson, a 6-3, 220-pound receiver from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is already on campus, enrolling in spring semester classes after graduating early from William T. Dwyer High.

Despite his height, the plan is to play Johnson as an inside receiver this spring, Johnson told CF.C earlier this month. At his size, Johnson might be the closest thing the Cougars have to a tight end. In fact, it's a position he occasionally played in high school.

"We moved him all around, inside, outside guy, in trips to get him on the backside so we could isolate him, even used him as a tight end," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. "I think he can play inside or outside. He can work the middle. He's a big kid. The thing you don't realize with him is his wing span. The high balls, he makes look like routine catches."

Daniels coached Johnson for two seasons after the incoming Coug transferred from a league rival. One immediate point of emphasis was teaching Johnson how to beat a defender off the of scrimmage. With his physical tools, Johnson eventually made it look easy.

"He's very physical with his hands and arms. At his height and weight, he just manhandles smaller guys, throws them to the ground," Daniels said.

One area Johnson must improve in Daniels' mind are jump ball-type situations, where the receiver and defensive back are both going after the ball.

"It's something he needs to work on. He would do it in practice, but then we get in the game, and he wouldn't be that great at it. He should be a lot better at it, I'll leave it at that," Daniels said.

Daniels says Johnson approached him a year ago about graduating early and getting a jump on college. It's no surprise to Daniels that Johnson pulled it off, as a 3.5 GPA student who the coach says "has never been in trouble a day in his life."

Daniels said Johnson, who lives with his mother, was "kind of lonely here, and he really wants to play as a freshman. He wanted to get a jump on spring practice. He's excited to be out there."

Moving from the sunny Florida climate to the four defined seasons of Pullman won't be an issue for Johnson, Daniels believes. Johnson is close to Cougar receiver Tavares Martin, a Dwyer grad. But more than that, he's in love with Leach's offense.

"He had options to go to Florida or Miami, but he's really fascinated with the offense coach Leach runs. What's a receiver want to do? He wants to catch balls. That was attractive to him," Daniels said.

As for Patmon, if his name sounds vaguely familiar to Cougar fans, you're not mistaken. Patmon's uncle, DeWayne Patmon, was an outside linebacker at Michigan, who as a freshman, played in the Wolverines' 21-16 win over Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl.

Patmon's father Darryl, and DeWayne, were both stars at Henry High, so Dez has the bloodlines. Athletically, Martinez gushes about Patmon.

"Unless the other team has somebody to match his leaping ability, it's lights out. On a little fade, he jumps up and grabs it," Martinez said. "You look at the guy, and he's completely cut. He doesn't have an ounce of fat."

The pre-snap decision for an opposing cornerback of Patmon is a conundrum, Martinez says.

"He's got good speed, and if anybody is going to play press on him, they're not going to have much chance holding him up, unless it's a big, physical corner," Martinez said. "He has deceptive speed. His stride...I haven't seen anybody catch him."

Though receiver is Patmon's position, he also played a starring role as a defensive back this past season. In a playoff game against La Jolla, Patmon tied a CIF record with four interceptions.

Like Johnson, here's another guy who is unlikely to draw a headline off the field. Patmon's father is a San Diego county deputy sheriff. He has two grandparents who are ministers.

"He's always been the big fish in that small pond at Henry, but he treats everyone well. Very kind to fellow classmates," Martinez said. "His biggest obstacle is going to be maturing. Not because he's immature, but he's so young. He won't turn 18 until he's (at Washington State). That will be an eye-opener for him, being away from family. But he wanted to go away to school and have the college experience, so he's prepared to work."

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