SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
7/23/2006 06:47:00 PM
Quality Time with Calvin Johnson
In his first two seasons at Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson has 102 catches for 1,725 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Blog is on location Sunday and Monday at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa for ACC Media Days, a two-day golf retreat disguised as work. Unfortunately, I don’t golf, so I guess I’ll blog instead.
Every league does its preseason media junket differently, but I’m particularly partial to the ACC’s because of its highly conducive set-up. There are no mammoth press conferences. Instead, two players from each team (and on Monday, the head coach from each team) sit at tables for two 90-minute sessions (six teams each), providing a more intimate environment for interviews. At one point on Sunday, Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker and linebacker Buster Davis -- quite possibly the most talkative college football player in history -- wound up in a heated debate over which player’s home state produces the best football players, California (Booker) or Florida (Davis). “We’ve got more Heisman winners,” proclaimed Booker. “Ah, that thing’s biased,” replied Davis. “Biased?” laughed Booker. “OK, well how about more Hall of Famers?” “Ah, that thing’s biased too,” said Davis.
Though the big names are often swarmed at first, if you’re willing to wait it out, you usually wind up in a more manageable situation. Such was the case Sunday for me and a couple other reporters with Georgia Tech’s star receiver Calvin Johnson. The 6-foot-4 junior has a knack for acrobatic catches -- check out the ridiculous touchdown grab against N.C. State in this highlight video -- and has appeared on several preseason All-America teams, along with either USC’s Dwayne Jarrett or Notre Dame’s Jeff Samardzija. Johnson is fairly shy and has avoided answering the inevitable and repeated question of whether he’s the best receiver in the country. But that doesn’t mean he’s devoid of that T.O./Keyshawn-type brashness you typically see in elite receivers, either.
When asked who has been his toughest defender thus far, Johnson replies, “Me.” No one else comes close? “Nah,” he says with a chuckle. So is there any defender who can stop you, Calvin? He ponders for a second before responding, “Maybe if you told the guy I was running a go-route, and he stood about 40 yards downfield, then maybe he could stop me.”
At least one guy did stop Johnson last season: Utah’s preseason All-America cornerback Eric Weddle. The Utes held Johnson to only two catches for 19 yards in their 38-10 Emerald Bowl upset of the Yellow Jackets. Asked about that game, Johnson grimaces. “Man, it was a nightmare. The field was in terrible condition. We brought the wrong cleats. I couldn’t run a route without slipping.”
For all his accomplishments his first two seasons -- he has 102 catches for 1,725 yards and 13 touchdowns -- Johnson hasn’t garnered nearly as much national attention as Jarrett or Samardzija, mainly because they play for USC and Notre Dame, respectively, while Johnson plays for Georgia Tech. That could change in a hurry, however, if Johnson has a big game in the Jackets’ nationally televised season opener against, of all people, Samardzija and the Irish. Johnson has been watching Notre Dame tape all offseason, including, of course, its Fiesta Bowl game against Ohio State in which the Buckeyes repeatedly burned the Irish on long passing plays.
“That’s got to make you foam at the mouth watching that,” I said to him. Johnson chuckled. “Yeah, a little bit.”
Stew, Johnson is unbelievable. It just goes to show you how bad of a program tech is right now. Even with one of the premier players in the game, a guy that has real potential to be special at the next level and actually CHANGES games himself, they are a mediocre team at best.
Stewart, even virginia tech stopped Calvin dead cold in its game. And Calvin is as good as the QB who gets him the ball. If the Georgia Tech QB gets pressurized all the times, I doubt if Calvin would be an impact player
Johnson's extremely good, definitely top-5 wideouts in the country good, but he can still get hung up and slowed down by a corner that can anticipate him. UVA's Marcus Hamilton--good player, not an all-worlder by any stretch--has kept him to minimal success the last two years. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Reggie Ball gives away his passing routes way too often, of course.
While Johnson is good, he may not be the great receiver he thinks he is. Look at his last two games of last season, vs. Georgia, 2 catches 14 yards, vs. Utah 2 catches 19 yards. Maybe someone has figured out how to cover him.
Yeah, that catch against NC State was pretty good, but come on, the Miami one where the ball was NOWHERE near him, that is sick. I watched that game because I like Miami and that was the 2nd coolest college catch I've ever seen behind the Tyrone Prothro catch.
As a Georgia Tech fan, it regularly pains me and my fellow fans to see a talent like Calvin's to go to waste with a QB like Reggie Ball throwing to him. However, Reggie does tend to play relatively well in high stake games (Auburn '03 and '05, Miami '05). Notre Dame better bring their 'A' game on defense, because Johnson will smoke them for 120 and 3 if they don't.
Being a UGA fan, this almost pains me to say it. The only way to stop Calvin Johnson is to tackle him about five yards off the line of scrimmage, have Reggie Ball as his quarterback, or Chan Gailey calling plays.
Stewart - I would however like to point out that Calvin was shut down in his last two games last year. UGA limited him to two catches for 14 yards during the win in Athens. One of his catches was for a TD, but you would expect more from an All-World receiver playing his school’s biggest rival.
So, to recap, Calvin caught four passes for 33 yards and one TD his last two games of the year. Perhaps there are a few teams that can stop him.
Although Calvin Johnson certainly has talent, there is no way he'll "light up" ND with that mediocre and inconsistent chucker Reggie Ball at QB. (Recall that OSU had Troy Smith throwing to Ginn AND Holmes.) Go Irish!
Is anyone remembering that Tech defense? That even if Tech scores touchdowns, they still have to stop Notre Dame's offense. I don't think Tech has any weapons to consistently shut down both the run and pass game.