UNIVERSITY PARK — To say that Jeremy Johnson has successfully transitioned from a quarterback for John Tyler High School to wide receiver at SMU might merely be stating the obvious.
Johnson, a senior, has 87 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns through nine games this season. He’s averaging 102.8 yards per game and has six 100-yard games. Earlier this year, he became the Mustangs’ leader in career receptions, eclipsing former teammate Emmanuel Sanders, now with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished with 285.
And he needs just 75 yards to become a 1,000-yard receiver for the first time and SMU’s first since 2011, when both Cole Beasley, now with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and Darius Johnson, with the Atlanta Falcons, both went past 1,000 yards.
“I’ve seen all the other guys who were here who had 1,000-plus seasons like Darius Johnson, Cole Beasley and Aldrick Robinson,” Johnson said. “I looked up to those guys and those great receivers. It’d just be a great feeling to be in a category with those guys.”
He also needs just 13 catches through SMU’s final three games to become the first Mustangs receiver ever to reach 100 catches. So, it’s safe to say that Mustangs head coach June Jones is pleased with how well Johnson has played during his time on the Hilltop.
“Jeremy has had a really, really good year,” Jones said. “He’s learned how to play receiver. He’s learned how to speed cut and has learned how to play the game. He’s now playing with confidence because his run after the catch is so much better.
“He’s not thinking about playing receiver. He’s being an athlete now and I think that’s why he’s playing at a higher level.”
One reason why Johnson is having such a strong senior year is because SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, a fellow senior, is doing a better job of getting his receivers the ball than he did last year, when he finished with 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while completing 53 percent of his passes.
Johnson and the rest of the Pony receivers worked extensively with Gilbert during the offseason to ensure everyone would be on the same page once the season started. It’s clear all that extra work has already paid off.
“Garrett has been great this season,” Johnson said. “He’s been electric for us. I think that time that we all spent together — all us being one family as a core — I think that helped out a lot because everybody was expecting each other to make plays and Garrett was expecting us to make plays. We just want to help him out as much as we can.”
And as far as these being his final three or four games at SMU, that’s a subject he’d rather not discuss, at least for now.
“It ain’t hit me,” Johnson said. “I haven’t thought about it yet, but I know it’s coming. I’m trying not to think about it.”
— Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco.