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Mountain View’s Anthony Johnson Catches On

At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Mountain View wide receiver Anthony Johnson possesses the size necessary to attract the attention of Division I recruiters. But during the summer before his junior season, Johnson bolstered another aspect of his game.

While attending a pair of camps at the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University, Johnson worked with Bryan Bossard and Chris Beatty -- the wide receivers coaches at Pitt and WVU, respectively -- on improving his route-running, something that was admittedly not much of a strength last season.

“Now I understand why we run certain routes in certain situations with certain plays,” Johnson said.

Added Mountain View Coach Eric Cooke: “He’s become very efficient in his route-running, and I think that’s made the difference this year. “

Efficient maybe. But when you look at Johnson’s numbers, which include 32 catches, 519 yards and four touchdowns through the team’s first five games, it's easy to think something else … All-Met possibly.

At both camps, Johnson worked to improve his stem, or what can best be described as the first part of his route. Say a play requires Johnson to run straight for 10, 12 or 15 yards and then break inward on a 45-degree angle, the stem is the portion before he makes his break.

Last season, apparently, Johnson would run his 10, 12 or 15 yards and make a generic, same-every-time-type cut, which worked sometimes and sometimes it didn’t. But this summer he became more comfortable with setting up his defender and reading and reacting to that.

For example, if Johnson sees the defender underneath -- or inside -- he’ll run a skinnier post or something more along a straight line. If the defender is over the top -- or outside -- he’ll make his break sooner and run a sharper post.

“Just little things like that can cause a great catch or an interception,” said Johnson, who has attracted recruiting interest from Pitt, WVU, Rutgers and Virginia Tech thus far.

Johnson’s emergence as one of Virginia’s top receiving threats has had a ripple effect. He has begun mentoring younger receivers such as freshman Daesean Hamilton, but other teams must account for where he’s lined up at all times.

If he’s part of a two-receiver set to one side, teams are routinely dedicating three defenders to that side, feeling that safety is not so much a luxury but required.

Simple math says that somebody somewhere should be open, right? Same is true if Cooke decides to stack Johnson in a three-receiver set, just change three defenders to four.

And although Mountain View is only 2-3, two of those losses have been by less than a touchdown. Furthermore, the single coverage has been a benefit to fellow junior Aaron Williams, who has 24 catches for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s been very productive,” Cooke said of Johnson. “He’s been our go-to guy in key situations. He’s a leader on the field as far as helping develop younger receivers, and it’s nice to see him becoming a seasoned veteran.”

By Jason Mackey  |  October 7, 2009; 11:55 PM ET
Categories:  Commonwealth District , Football  
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