Isaiah Johnson-Mack was a true freshman last season and as the old bromide goes, the greatest amount of improvement generally comes between the first and second seasons out on the college gridiron. And his ceiling is still a long ways up.
THE FILE ON JOHNSON-MACK:
Measurables: 6-3, 216 pounds
Hometown: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
High School: Dwyer High
His first year at WSU: Johnson-Mack spent this past season as Marks’ understudy at the Z, posting 35 catches for 246 yards and 1 TD. That experience under Marks should prove valuable in Year Two -- and a starting job and the increased number of turns available to earn with Marks now gone should provide plenty of incentive.
Greatest strength: Big, strong, athletic with a big wing span. Back in fall camp last year, Johnson-Mack physically at times looked like a man among boys despite his true freshman status. Indeed, there were times when he was the story of the day for his work in one-on-one, skelly and in 11-on-11. But beating the coverage consistently takes both development and time and while there were periods of domination in fall camp, there were also the times he didn't carry the day. But it was a similar story in high school, where he eventually worked up to making it look easy. He used this past year at WSU working in part on improving his release point, quickness and route running.
QUOTABLE: “If you don’t run good routes, you’re probably not going to be open. I understand how my route effects other routes and how other routes affect my route.”
An area to improve this spring: Winning the 50-50 balls. With his size, strength and leaping ability, Johnson-Mack should excel in this area, rather than just be good at it. He should also be more physical, and confident, with a year under his belt and with a frame that already looked like a senior's last year -- and could still likely support 15 more pounds than his true freshman season without sacrificing athleticism.
Coach's comment: WSU outside receivers coach Dave Nichol to CF.C last month: "Isaiah caught more balls than (C.J. Dimry, Dezmon Patmon) and obviously he is a guy we think has a bright future. And he was Gabe’s backup at Z. So he along with a couple others will get every shot to take over that Z position. He’s talented and he also needs to grow up and mature in this offense, and become more consistent this spring."
The year that put him on the map: Johnson exploded his junior season in high school, earning All-State, All-County and All-Area honors and soaring up the recruiting boards. He was at alternately verbally committed to Florida, Miami and Louisville before settling on WSU late in the process. The chance to catch passes in Mike Leach's offense, and a good friend from Florida -- Martin Jr. -- on the WSU roster, were key to his decision to become a Coug.
Home away from home: Johnson-Mack and Martin Jr. are both from Dwyer High. Johnson-Mack said Martin Jr. was a big part of his decision to come across the country for college. Plus, he's said Belle Glade "is just like Pullman" with wheat fields in the surrounding area rather than sugar cane fields.
RELATED: Nichol says replacing Marks at Z will be wide open battle