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Penn State’s Top 10 for 2018: #3 Juwan Johnson

We continue off our annual top ten preseason football players of 2018 list as voted on by the BSD staff. In creating this list, we considered players’ abilities, value to the team and past performance, among other factors.

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Our countdown continues with a towering receiver who is familiar with coming up big when it matters most - Juwan Johnson

#9 QB Tommy Stevens (tie)

#9 DE Ryan Buchholz (tie)

#8 DT Kevin Gives

#7 OL Connor McGovern

#6 DE Shareef Miller

#5 RB Miles Sanders

#4 CB John Reid

How He Got Here

Johnson was a four-star recruit in the class of 2015, hailing from Glassboro High School in Glassboro, NJ. His offer list was extensive, including Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Alabama, among many others.

Upon his arrival, Juwan was given a redshirt season, as the 2015 offense featured Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and Geno Lewis. Not needed on the field, Johnson spent the first year on campus getting accustomed to college life, and working out in the strength and conditioning program.

From the beginning, Juwan’s size was evident - standing 6’4”, he towered over many of the other receivers on the team. As a redshirt freshman, Johnson primarily saw time on special teams, where he was used in coverage, for kickoff returns, and punt returns. He did maximize his opportunities at receiver, hauling in a 27-yard pass against Pitt, and a 43-yard pass against Michigan State.

It wasn’t until his redshirt sophomore season in 2017 that Juwan really began to shine at receiver. In the nailbiting game against Iowa, Johnson hauled in seven receptions, including his first career touchdown - the game winning pass from Trace McSorley as time expired to escape Kinnick with the win.

From then on, the chemistry between Johnson and Trace grew. Juwan finished the season as an honorable mention All-Big Ten receiver, with over 70% of his catches going for first downs.

What to Expect in 2018

Juwan became an extremely reliable option for McSorley in the passing game, and he will be needed in 2018. The receiving corps loses second-round tight end Mike Gesicki, as well the all-time Penn State receptions leader in DaeSean Hamilton. While other returning receivers include Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins, Johnson will be called upon as the truest deep threat the team has.

His size and athleticism will be put to good use while younger receivers look to make their mark. Without a tight end on the roster that can create red zone threats like Gesicki, expect Juwan’s overall production and scoring to increase this season. There are talented receivers all over the roster for the Lions, but expect Johnson to rise above the rest, both figuratively and literally.

If Juwan can build on the trust and chemistry he has with McSorley, an All-Big Ten season could be on the docket as the number one receiver on the team. Don’t be surprised if Johnson heads to the NFL Draft after this season, as I expect his receiving stats to skyrocket. In any case, the towering receiver will make his mark on opposing secondaries all year long.