University of Toledo's Jon'Vea Johnson averaged 19.3 yards per catch as a sophomore. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
After a breakout sophomore season, University of Toledo junior wide receiver Jon’Vea Johnson believes the next step in his development is to master the mental aspect of being a receiver.
That means not just relying on athleticism to get by, but taking the time to break down game film and recognize how to exploit different coverage.
“One thing I’m doing more now is becoming a better player as far as studying more film,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to be more of a student of the game. I’ve been doing a lot of film study just breaking down defenses and different coverages and really dissecting it. I’m just trying to make myself a better player.”
Johnson emerged as a big-play threat opposite star receiver Cody Thompson and finished the season with 773 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 19.3 yards per catch. His play-making ability was on full display when he turned in a 98-yard TD catch at home against Ohio.
Johnson earned second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors in 2016
He said working with new receivers coach Mike Bellamy has helped him develop a better sense of how to become a complete receiver.
“Coach Bellamy, I feel like he is more about the art of being a receiver and not like the science of it,” Johnson said. “He’s teaching us a lot of good releases and just little baby stuff that we wouldn’t have thought of. I think he’s a valuable piece to our coaching staff and definitely to our receivers.”
Johnson said learning from Thompson over the past few years has given him a lot of perspective on how to become a great receiver
“One thing about Cody is that he is a perfectionist,” Johnson said. “I know all of my life, I’ve never been a guy that has been so focused on little things like Cody. So that’s one sheet I’m trying to take out of his book and put in mine. He’s so crafty. And he’s first to everything and he makes sure his steps are precise when it comes to route running and he has great eye discipline when he’s catching the ball. It’s just little things like that. That stuff slips away from me sometimes and I rely on my playmaking ability and my athleticism. Cody kind of brings that balance back to me.”
With Thompson and Johnson back, Diontae Johnson returning from injury, and two young players in Danzel McKinley-Lewis and Desmond Phillips taking over the slot receiver role for Corey Jones, Johnson said the receiver group is as deep as he can remember in his time at UT.
“If me and Cody get off the field, we have replaceable guys that are still adding up the same kind of production in my eyes,” Johnson said. “I think this is going to be a really good year for the receiver group.”
In his second season with quarterback Logan Woodside as the starter, Johnson said the two should continue to build on the chemistry they had last season
“Me and Logan, we put a lot of work in when no one is watching,” Johnson said. “So he knows where I want the ball and he knows ball placement where it’s going to be and I know where it is going to be. We just have that receiver-QB bond.”