"Don’t go to LSU, they’ll never get you the ball."
I’m confident this is a recruiting tactic routinely used against the Tigers, despite the proliferation of WR talent hanging around the league right now. You know, including one of the NFL’s most exciting, hot, attractive players, Odell Beckham Jr. It’s a line that many believed would wind up driving New Orleans receiver Tyron Johnson right out of the state and into an offense that may prove to be a bit more friendly on receiving stats.
Yet, the lack of quarterback production hasn’t pushed the talent away. In fact, LSU is currently sitting on a goldmine of wide-receiver talent unseen since perhaps the days of Clayton, Henderson, Bowe, Green and Davis manned the roster.
Who is Tyron Johnson and how can he build on the currently impressive run of WR talent to come from Baton Rouge?
Must get prospects in major metro areas in the state of Louisiana will always remain the coaching staff’s top priority. They are the easiest players for out of state teams to recruit and typically the ones carrying the highest profile. Tyron Johnson has been a "thing" since at least 2012, and probably even before that locally.
Most kids in Louisiana can’t escape the LSU attraction. Being close to home and a major college football power are powerful forces when it comes to make a collegiate decision. Of course, there are defectors. There always will be. But by and large the state’s best, still almost always wind up at LSU.
Deep in his recruiting process, many believed Tyron Johnson may be one of those defectors. He openly flirted with schools like Georgia and Texas Tech. He liked the flashy offense at Texas Tech and how they could get the ball into their receivers' hands. He liked Georgia’s tradition of putting WRs into the league. This frightened LSU recruitniks, who thought for sure that Johnson was more Landon Collins or Joe McKnight than Michael Clayton or Leonard Fournette.
Yet, as the process wore on, it became increasingly obvious that Johnson would head nowhere but LSU. His interest in other suitors began to fade and LSU seemed to pull into pole position down the stretch. LSU recruiting coordinator did everything in his power to let Johnson know he was the staff’s top priority and considered the No. 1 player on their board. He spoke of him at a meeting with the QB Club of New Orleans. The staff put on the heavy press and were rewarded for their diligence.
Johnson, an Under-Armour All-American, set to declare at the game, pulled out an LSU jersey during a half time ceremony and ended his process right then and there. He turned his attention to fellow New Orleans five-star, and good friend, Donte Jackson, making an appearance at his announcement ceremony, in LSU gear, showing his support.
I want to be clear in acknowledging the work done by the staff here. Johnson was very much in play for other schools. He was a highly coveted superstar prospect that could have gone anywhere he would have liked. Frank Wilson made sure that the place he liked the most was LSU.
Johnson finished as a five-star on the 247 composite with a .9873 rating.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 192 lbs.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.31
Power Ball: 38"
4.52 isn't a blazing time, but there's no reason to be concerned about his speed. The 4.31 short shuttle is similarly a good, but not outrageous time. Really this is true of all of his numbers. His total SPARQ would have landed him in the top 50 of all participants at last year's Nike The Opening. Really this illustrates how well-rounded of an athlete Johnson is. There's no standout number here, but he's quality in every category.
Strengths: Open Field Running, Hands, Gets Open
Weaknesses: Route Running
Open Field Running: Just check :42. When the guy gets the ball in his hands, he's flat out dangerous. Not only does he have great moves, he has rare vision that allows him to hit seams and do damage. This could make him an immediate force in the punt return game. He's also patient and knows how to wait for his blocks. 1:16 is another jaw-dropping example of his ability to make people miss.
Hands: He's a pure hand-catcher and really plucks the ball out of the air. I love the snag at 2:54, where you can see how naturally he catches the ball. That's no easy catch, toe-tapping the back of the end zone and hanging on to the ball. 3:37 is another fantastic snag. 3:58 is that Odell Beckham-type, next-level catching.
Gets Open: Okay, I know this doesn't sound like the most in-depth piece of analysis, but there's a talent there, as you all would testify regarding Jarvis Landry. Johnson understands space and finding cracks in the defense. And he can do it in a multitude of ways. Johnson isn't a guy who just streaks down the sideline and blows past defenders. He knows how to sneak underneath. He knows how to find holes in the zone. 3:20 is a nice example of him understanding what's going on behind him and working across the middle until he finds a hole. It's something that should allow him to see the field early.
Route Running: Every young wideout must learn the route tree and how quickly Johnson picks up on the little things of route running will determine how much playing time he sees in 2015. Make no mistake, he will be on the field, and I don't think he's a poor route runner. It's just that there's always an adjustment. He's got all the traits that make a stellar route runner. He's quick in and out of cuts, he's got an understanding of how to manipulate defenses and he can extend and pluck the ball way from his body. There aren't many weaknesses to his game.
Tyron Johnson is a unique talent that adds an interesting dimension to the LSU wide receiver corps. He’s not a monster that will tower over defenders, but he’s got a good frame and thickly built, almost like a RB. To me, the thing that stands out about the kid is that he’s just so natural. He doesn’t have a stand out, off the charts skill. He’s not gonna run a 4.2 40. He doesn’t have a 45-inch vertical. Hey may not have the best hands in the class of 2015. But he’s the perfect cocktail of football destruction.
Show me a more effortless, easy, smooth offensive player in the 2015 signing class than Tyron Johnson. Like Odell Beckham, like Jarvis Landry, he picks up on the nuances of the game with ease. I think he’s realistically an amalgamation of those two. A better athlete than Jarvis, but not as good as Odell. Yet, he’s bigger than both. He’s a guy that can play the slot, but isn’t limited to playing only there.
So what is Tyron Johnson? He reminds me of a guy like Victor Cruz? Not huge but not small. Not outright explosive, but that’s not a limitation either. He’s silky smooth, and simply… natural. His road ahead is crowded, due to the current amazing LSU WR depth chart, but he’s also the type that could bypass people in a hurry. I expect to see Johnson on the field in 2015.
High End: All-American, first-round draft pick.
Low End: Quality starter.
Realistic: All-SEC player with a highly productive career that gets drafted in the first three rounds.