Minnesota needed help from some new players to earn the victory last Thursday against Oregon State.
One of those players was freshman wide receiver Tyler Johnson.
Johnson, a Minneapolis native, had three catches for 31 yards in his first game with the Gophers.
Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson described Johnson’s performance as “exceptional.”
“Now there’s many technique and fundamental things that he has to improve upon, but that’s somewhat expected,” Jay Johnson said. “But when the play came his way, he made the play.”
One of the biggest concerns for Johnson’s adjustment to the Gophers was the position switch he made from high school.
He played played quarterback for Minneapolis North High School last year and led the Polars to a state title appearance. He also helped the Polars earn their sixth state title for basketball during his senior season as a two-sport athlete.
The Gophers decided to play him at wide receiver for the upcoming season. His redshirt was removed last Thursday due to other receiver injuries and Johnson’s improvement over the offseason. He earned consistent playing time throughout the game.
Redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner said Johnson has grown since coming to Minnesota in the spring.
“I would have never been able to guess that he would be able to play this year,” Leidner said. “I was watching how raw he was right away. I was like ‘Oh, this kid will probably redshirt,’ and he ends up being really good in camp and getting better every single day, so I think throughout the season he’s going to continue making big strides.”
Sophomore Rashad Still suffered a shoulder injury in the Oregon State game and will be out for four weeks, head coach Tracy Claeys said. Redshirt junior wide receiver Eric Carter is listed on the depth chart this week but is coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for the Oregon State game.
Leidner said he was eager to see how the receivers adjusted to Still’s injury in this week of practice and looks forward to the group stepping up.
“It was good to see Tyler have a good game last week as a freshman receiver,” Leidner said. “We know he can play and make big-time plays. Now the door is open for someone to come in and try to earn themselves a spot.”
Johnson is listed as a backup receiver on the depth chart for Indiana State. Jay Johnson said Tyler Johnson is the main option for offensive freshmen on the team right now.
“We’re going to wait and see and see how things evolve here in the next couple weeks, so right now we’re kind of right there,” Jay Johnson said. “That could change with outcomes of different things, but right now we’re planning to stay as is.”
Mike Hendrickson contributed to this report.