Each week this fall, we’re looking at a specific number that’s tied to Texas football.
This week’s notable number is 24 — the jersey number that has been assigned to UT freshmen Marques Caldwell and Derrian Brown. The longest run against Texas through two games was LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 24-yarder last week. Hunter Lawrence kicked a school-record 24 field goals during the 2009 season.
Twenty-four also represents the number of catches that senior wide receiver Collin Johnson has made at NFL stadiums during his Longhorns career.
Texas has played in five of them since 2016, Johnson’s first season — Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, NRG Stadium, FedEx Field, AT&T Stadium and the Superdome. He has 24 catches for 507 yards and two touchdowns in those venues. He also nabbed a two-point conversion in last season’s Sugar Bowl.
The top two games of Johnson’s career — a 191-yard effort against USC in 2017 and a 177-yard game against Oklahoma in last year’s Big 12 championship game — occurred at NFL stadiums. The 191-yard game against the Trojans is a school record for a road game. And the 177-yard game against the Sooners was the best-ever performance for a receiver in a Big 12 title game.
Collin Johnson at NFL Stadiums
|September 16, 2017||USC||Memorial Coliseum (Rams)||7 catches, 191 yards|
|December 27, 2017||Missouri||NRG Stadium (Texans)||3 catches, 40 yards|
|September 1, 2018||Maryland||FedEx Field (Redskins)||3 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD|
|December 1, 2018||Oklahoma||AT&T Stadium (Cowboys)||8 catches, 177 yards, 1 TD|
|January 1, 2019||Georgia||Superdome (Saints)||3 catches, 40 yards, 2-point conversion|
Texas returns to the Houston Texans’ NRG Stadium to play Rice on Saturday. Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that he was bothered by his hamstring in last week’s 45-38 loss to LSU. He’s considered a game-time decision, UT coach Tom Herman said Thursday.
Johnson, who considered leaving Texas for the NFL draft this off-season, has seven catches for 108 yards in the first two games of this season. The 6-6, 220-pound senior scored on a 6-yard reception against Louisiana Tech.
After being limited to three catches by LSU, Johnson applauded Tigers cornerbacks Kristian Fulton and Derek Stingley Jr., but also said that he had left some plays on the field. Specifically, he bemoaned a downfield pass that was wrestled away by Stingley and later ruled an incompletion.
“I feel like I just need to hold my line a little longer and then separate later to the ball,” Johnson said. “That’s a routine catch instead of it turning out the way it did.”
Said offensive coordinator Tim Beck: “We had some matchups; we didn’t always convert on them with Collin. We probably could have moved him around a little bit more than we did.”
Johnson, who had 68 catches last year for 985 yards, was Texas’ leading returning receiver this season. But he’s been targeted only 14 times against Louisiana Tech and LSU. Devin Duvernay has a team-high 21 catches and Brennan Eagles has three touchdowns, including a 55-yarder against LSU.
Johnson has seen some double-coverage looks, which has opened opportunities for Eagles and Jake Smith. He also plays in an offense that is friendly to slot receivers. With 21 receptions, Duvernay is well on his way to becoming the fourth slot receiver to lead a Tom Herman team in receiving. The outlier over Herman’s first four years as a head coach? Johnson’s 54-catch season in 2017.
“As a receiver, you want the ball, but you’ve got to be humble enough to know the big picture,” Johnson said. “You look at the history of this offense, the H (slot) is naturally … going to touch the ball more than some of the other guys. That’s just how the offense is. What I’m asked to do is just beat man coverage and make plays when my number’s called. That’s all I can control.”
Despite the slow start to his season, Texas is still expecting big things from Johnson. “We have a ton of confidence in him, our whole receiving corps,” Duvernay said. “It’s nothing we’re worried about.”
Following this weekend’s game against Rice, Texas will turn its attention to games in the pass-happy Big 12. Last season, TCU was the only Big 12 team that boasted a top-70 passing defense. Texas Tech and Oklahoma ranked 128th and 129th nationally in that category. Oklahoma State, which travels to Austin next week, gave up 170 receiving yards to Oregon State’s Isaiah Hodgins in its opener.