MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - As the Gophers quarterback carousel continues to spin round and round, there is a stabilizing presence in the Gophers’ passing game this spring.
Wide receiver Tyler Johnson returns from a breakout season a year ago, but his ability is no longer a mystery to Big Ten teams.
“My coaches have been on me very hard,” Johnson said about his workload in spring ball. “I would say I am working on it each day and getting better and better.”
Johnson jumped out to a great start in 2017, catching six touchdowns over the course of his first six games, but he only found the end zone once in his final four. That decrease in production combined with a hand injury that hampered his season, is creating a new drive in Johnson in this camp.
“I am working on my break points and working on separating from the defender,” Johnson said. “I come out every day with the mindset of knowing that I have to get better.”
Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck also mentioned seeing a difference in the junior wide receiver as Johnson tries to take his game to another level.
“He could do a lot of things, but when he played against competition that was maybe better than him, his technique wasn’t perfected enough to get him out of some of those situations,” Fleck said about Johnson’s 2017 season. “[Now] he’s way more efficient in his technique and you can see that in him becoming a more efficient receiver. It’s probably the biggest adjustment he’s made."
In addition to a QB, the Gophers are still looking for new targets to help Johnson out after he caught seven of the team’s nine total passing touchdowns last year.
As pressure mounts, it is something that Tyler is taking in stride while he catches on to a new role as a leader.
“Now I am starting to lead others, especially in the wide receiver room,” Johnson said. “The young guys under me, I am just going out and helping them. I know they’re looking up to me and expecting big things, but I am expecting big things out of them as well.”
Future success is not all on Tyler. It will take an entire offense to revitalize one of the poorest passing attacks in college football that ranked 122nd in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
But this Gophers offense is a group that is persistent when it comes to reaching their potential in 2018.
“We have to have everybody going in the same direction,” Johnson said. “We know what to expect. I feel like all of us are out there playing our butts off and doing the right things on and off the field.”