TUCSON - Anthony Johnson does not have much of a college resumè. In 33 games over three seasons, the Arizona wide receiver has caught 71 passes and six touchdowns. He has yet to start more than seven games in a season or make more than seven catches in a game.
Regardless, Johnson is sure that numbers are not as important as experience. The fifth-year senior will be counted on to carry an Arizona team looking for offensive leadership this season.
Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he believes Johnson possesses All-Pac-10 talent. Quarterback Willie Tuitama predicts “A.J.” will be a “big-time stud this year.”
“I promise you that,” Tuitama said. “He has a whole lot of heart and a lot of character. The leadership that he brings is something that we need at the wide receiver position.”
Johnson is hoping to lead by example after struggling for the first part of his college career. He showed flashes of brilliance on the field, grabbing a 68-yard pass in 2005 on the way to a breakthrough season. At the same time, however, Johnson’s grades and personal life were slipping.
“I was very immature as a football player and a person,” he said.
Johnson met with coach Mike Stoops after the 2005 season to discuss his future. Stoops said Johnson could eliminate most of his stress by doing the little things right — practicing hard, going to class and lifting weights.
Johnson said the conversation was a turning point.
He caught 26 passes and three touchdowns in 2006, including a 78-yard scoring strike in the Wildcats’ win at Washington State.
Johnson enters fall camp as the club’s starting small tight end. The position, also called a “Y” receiver in some systems, could not be a better fit.
Johnson, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, will line up against slower linebackers or smaller safeties. He said he expects to have an edge on both.
“The position is diverse,” he said. “A small tight end can play inside and he can play outside. I’m a physical guy, so I’ll get a chance to be physical with stronger defenders.”
Johnson has already shown flashes of brilliance in practice. He made a one-handed grab Wednesday that has been the early highlight of camp.
Johnson said he hopes his influence extends beyond the field. He has been a mentor to many of Arizona’s younger wide receivers through summer workouts.