Texas receiver Collin Johnson (9) runs for a first down against Oklahoma at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Dec. 1, 2018. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

With NFL decisions looming, UT’s Johnson and Humphrey prepare for NCAA’s top defensive back

Posted December 17th, 2018

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If Collin Johnson has a checklist for the postseason, it looks like the Sugar Bowl will meet most of the junior wide receiver’s requirements.

Playing in New Orleans on New Year’s Day? Check.

Facing a top-five team in Georgia? That’ll work.

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Going up against Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, this year’s Thorpe Award winner? Bingo.

“You come to Texas to play in big-time games against big-time opponents,” Johnson said. “This is literally all you can ask for in coming to UT. Playing a team like Georgia and the defensive backs that they have, it’s an unbelievable opportunity, (that’s) a word that comes to mind.”

Johnson and classmate Lil’Jordan Humphrey are putting a bow on one of the best seasons ever for a UT receiving tandem. Humphrey leads the team in receptions (79), receiving yards (1,109) and touchdown catches (nine). Johnson has 65 catches for 945 yards and seven scores. UT is one of seven schools that have two receivers with 65 catches.

Texas receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (84) catches a pass over West Virginia safety Toyous Avery Jr. (3) in Austin on Nov. 3, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
If Johnson can add 55 receiving yards to his season-long total, UT will have two 1,000-yard receivers for only the second time in school history.

Texas, though, has faced only two of the country’s top 40 secondaries in terms of passing yards allowed (ninth-ranked Tulsa and No. 40 TCU). At 180.5 yards per game, Georgia has the nation’s 15th-best pass defense. Two quarterbacks have thrown for 250 yards against the Bulldogs.

Baker, a 5-11, 185-pound senior, has contributed 10 pass breakups and two interceptions to the cause. On Monday, Johnson described him as smart, polished and talented. Humphrey said the Georgia secondary will present the UT receivers with a test they haven’t had in a while.

“It’s a high-profile competition. If you come out on top, that proves you’re really good as well,” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “I think both those guys are really looking forward to being able to get to go against him, as well as their other DBs because they’re all talented.”

Baker will be the best cornerback that UT sees this season. Humphrey recalled Kansas (two catches for 25 yards) and Oklahoma State (4-69) doing a good job against him this season. Iowa State and Maryland both held Johnson to three catches, although he declined to answer when asked which defense had given him the most fits.

“I can’t say that because then Georgia will go out and play that defense,” Johnson said with a smile.

Johnson and Humphrey must soon decide whether they will enter the NFL draft or return to Texas for their senior seasons. Johnson has had some discussion about his future with his coaches and father but isn’t in a hurry to make an announcement. The deadline for eligible underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 14.

Humphrey will make his decision after the Sugar Bowl but was “for sure 50/50” on Monday. Neither he nor Johnson have received feedback from the NFL’s college advisory committee yet. One member of Humphrey’s inner-circle, though, has publicly campaigned on Twitter for a return to school. Humphrey joked with reporters that he had to text his mother, Chevette, to “stop that BS.”

Wait a minute, a reporter interjected. Not even an NFL prospect can use that language with his mom, correct?

Said a self-correcting Humphrey: “I was, like, please stop it.”

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