Big Target

One look at wide receiver Will Johnson in the Big 33 all-star game revealed some surprises about the WVU-bound Ohioan.

Johnson, who has certainly grown and put on some weight since his campus visits last year, stood out among the wideouts on the Ohio side of the field. So much, so, in fact, that he won an assignment that not many receivers look forward to.

"They saw that I was a big physical receiver, so they used me a lot to block on the edge and on the perimeter, and I thought I did a good job of that," Johnson said. "I thought I did my part, at least from what the coaches wanted me to do."

Of course, any receiver worth his salt wants to see the ball come his way, but that wasn't in the game plan for Ohio, which tried to get Michigan State-bound B.J. Cunningham the ball early and often. Johnson did throw enough blocks on plays to Cunningham and on running plays to suggest that he has an idea of what lays in store for him at WVU, and he used the week of Big 33 practice to learn as much as he could about the art.

When it came to game time, however, Johnson found he had a completely different level of play to contend with.

"Blocking against those big guys, whew," said Johnson with a smile. "Some of those guys are really big, and fast. I got a lot of experience out there, and I'm glad I have that experience going down to West Virginia."

Due to the style of Ohio's attack, Johnson was often blocking safeties and linebackers, and he admitted that he wasn't used to facing players of his size or greater that could run with him in the open field. However, he didn't back down from the assignment, and had several solid hits to help Ohio's offense. He knows, however, that more consistency and ever-increasing effort will be needed on the fields of the Big East.

On the field for his last game as a high schooler, the rangy receiver was thinking about his prep swan song.

"I knew that going in at halftime," he said of the realization that he was in his final contest on that level. "We were all talking about that, and we didn't want to lose our last game, but it didn't work out. It's an all-star game, though, and there are a lot of good players out there. I enjoyed myself."

In addition to his blocking duties, Johnson did see a handful of balls come his way. He caught one pass in the second half, and was the target of two long passes at the end of the first half. On both, he had gotten behind the defender, but the first pass was underthrown and broken up by the defender, while the second one ended up out of bounds.

"They had me long, but it didn't go our way," said Johnson, who wasn't about to criticize the way he was used or the number of passes that came his way.

The lack of statistical production didn't cloud his view of the experience of the week, however.

"It was a great experience, especially with our wide receivers coach, Ron Lewis," Johnson said of the week. "He taught us a lot. I think a lot of what I learned will carry over to college. And I feel that maybe we have a slight advantage with the game today in that we learned about game speed. It was much faster tempo, and everyone here is going on to college, so I think it is a great advantage for us going in."


Johnson's size could give him a leg up on other incoming receivers, as he has the frame to play at one of the outside spots. Immediate playing time might be too much to ask for, as there is still a lot for him to learn, but wide receiver might be the easiest place to get on the field for incoming West Virginia freshmen in 2007.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories