How Penn State’s Juwan Johnson became the talk of spring, in James Franklin’s mind
Penn State head coach James Franklin pauses after the Nittany Lions lost to USC, 52-49 on a last-second field goal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca. on Jan. 2, 2017. Joe Hermitt | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you follow Penn State football, you know that one name has been hotter than the rest this spring when it comes to who is standing out the most.
That player, for those who are not aware, is Juwan Johnson.
Standing 6-foot-4, 218 pounds on the latest program roster, No. 84 flashed brilliance every now and again in 2016, but he never really took a big step forward en route to finishing with more special teams tackles (9) than receptions (2) and just 70 yards besides his name on the stat ledger in what must be noted was a competitive PSU receivers room led by Chris Godwin.
He’s gone now though, of course, off to maybe the Eagles or Steelers or some other NFL team on Day 2 of the draft. Now, someone else has to step up, and if you listen to the chatter coming out of State College, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, isn’t the leader in the clubhouse to do just that.
How did we get to this point?
“He just has taken a very mature approach, very aggressive approach, all offseason,” head coach James Franklin said during the Big Ten coaches spring teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s kind of like he redshirted as a freshman, played a little as a true freshman, and now he kind of has it figured out to be successful with our team.”
Johnson arrived at Penn State as a four-star recruit with high expectations, as he said before he came to campus that he was drawing comparisons to NFL great Calvin Johnson during his prep days.
It’s taken time to mold the reasons he was successful in high school into habits that help win and thrive in the Big Ten, though. It’s in those areas that Franklin believes Johnson has made his biggest strides, and it’s why program observers from linebacker Jason Cabinda to tight end Mike Gesicki, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, and plenty of others in-between have all pointed to him as the talk of spring.
“He’s really just kind of made a significant jump from the end of the season to now, and it’s been kind of him identifying what his strength and weaknesses are, and saying I’m going to work hard at these areas and make those weaknesses strengths,” Franklin added.
“I think we all know he has some special physical abilities, and it’s all coming together for him right now.”