After a 1-2 start to the 2013 season and an injury to senior wide receiver Mike Davis in the conference opener, Texas needed its younger players to shine. Several candidates were expected to fill the role, but very few signs pointed to sophomore wide receiver Marcus Johnson being the one.
Johnson missed Texas’ previous two games with a knee injury and entered with only one catch in nine career games. However, in the end it was Johnson who took advantage of the occasion, hauling in five passes for 70 yards against Kansas State in the Big 12 opener, including two grabs in Texas’ final scoring drive.
“I just felt like that first opportunity against Kansas State — I came off the little knee injury, and I went out there and did what I could to step up in the time when Mike was hurt,” Johnson said. “And from then on I think my confidence was there, and from there on everything went well.”
Now a junior, Johnson enters 2014 expected to take over Davis’ old role as Texas’ big play receiver. He showed flashes of potential last season, none bigger than his 59-yard touchdown catch in Texas’ upset victory over Oklahoma last October.
“That was a major step,” Johnson said. “Going into the game, I wasn’t expecting anything like that touchdown at the time or anything like that. But, when it happened, it just let me know, man, that I could do this. I can be a dynamic player.”
After spending last season as an unknown by opposing defenses, Johnson will now be a team’s defensive game plan to shutdown. Not one to back away from a challenge, Johnson looks forward to taking on opponents’ top corners and facing the most experienced defensive backs.
“You want competition. You want to go against the best,” Johnson said. “Even in practice, I’m constantly calling guys like Duke [Thomas] and Quandre [Diggs] out because that’s who you want. You want the best competition to make you better.”
Johnson’s teammates have even taken notice of the wideout’s urge to compete amongst the best as he continues to improve.
“Marcus is a hard worker, and he wants to go against the best, and we see that,” junior running back Johnathan Gray said. “That’s what we want. We want guys like Marcus to call out some of those veterans and say ‘Come against me.’ That’s what we need, and we love the competitiveness, and we need guys like that to help us win.”
Because of Johnson’s willingness to challenge himself, it won’t be a surprise if he finishes 2014 as Texas’ leading receiver.
Ultimately, it will come down to Johnson continuing to take advantage of his opportunities to impact games like he did in 2013.
“It’s funny, because if I would’ve dropped the pass against Oklahoma, it would’ve been a lot different right now,” Johnson said.
But Johnson hauled in that pass, showing a penchant for making explosive plays that he would repeat on an identical route for a 65-yard touchdown in the next game against TCU. As Texas’ top returning deep threat, the rising junior is poised to take on a vital role in Texas’ passing game.
“When the opportunity or chance comes, [it’s] just [about] taking advantage of it and continuing to build and grow,” Johnson said.