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Archive for Saturday, October 1, 2005

Know the foe: Johnson emerging at receiver

October 1, 2005

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Kansas University recruiting buffs will remember Robert Johnson. Coach Mark Mangino sure does.

Johnson was one of the top junior-college talents in the United States, a dual-threat quarterback who received more than 30 Division I-A offers after tearing up the juco ranks at Reedley (Calif.) College.

Kansas, at one point, was in Johnson's top five.

Eventually, Johnson was endeared by the limitless passing capabilities Texas Tech offered to its quarterbacks, and signed there. Kansas signed another California juco quarterback, Jason Swanson.

Little did Johnson know he'd be on the receiving end of the Tech aerial attack - and making a big name for himself that way. He'll be a top wideout option today when KU and Texas Tech play at 6 p.m. in Lubbock, Texas.

After Cody Hodges won the starting-quarterback job this summer, Johnson moved to receiver to utilize his athleticism. After three games, Johnson has caught 20 passes for 361 yards, tops among the Red Raiders' deep wide-receiver fleet.

"They're getting him the ball," Mangino said. "He's a strong, tough, talented athlete. He's playing the 'Y' position for them, and they're getting him a lot of balls."

The Red Raiders have used Johnson as a crutch, but they would have walked fine without him. After mopping up in what has been called the most laughable nonconference schedule in college football, Tech is unbeaten at 3-0 and has scored 199 points. It came, though, against new I-A squad Florida International, and I-AA foes Sam Houston State and Indiana State.

It would seem that the jury still is out on Texas Tech, considering the competition. But Mangino doesn't think so.

"You can tell on tape that they are very talented," Mangino said. "It doesn't matter much who the competition is. You can see their schemes, their speed and their athleticism."

Fact is, a lot of players return from last year's 8-4 team that won the Holiday Bowl, including running back Taurean Henderson, wide receiver Jarrett Hicks, cornerback Khalid Naziruddin and receiver/return specialist Danny Amendola.

The quarterback is new, but that means little in Tech's system. Hodges spent the past four years soaking in the position while B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie played in front of him. Now a senior, Hodges stepped right in, passing for 1,117 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception in Tech's first three games.

His favorite target definitely was Johnson, at least in the first two games. Johnson caught nine passes for 129 yards in the season opener, then hauled in eight catches for 209 yards against Sam Houston State.

Seems a good fit, having the ex-star quarterback become a top option at wide receiver. Did Mangino ever consider it when recruiting Johnson two years ago?

"I don't think we got that far," he said with a smile.

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