The quarterback situation at Virginia may be unsettled, but whoever emerges as the Cavaliers signal-caller this fall will have an emerging go-to weapon on the outside in rising sophomore receiver Keeon Johnson.
The 6-3 Johnson tallied 282 yards on 20 receptions as a freshman last season, despite missing the first four games of the season. Mike London and his staff originally planned to redshirt Johnson, but the receiver kept making plays on the practice field and wouldn't be denied his shot.
Once he got, he made the most of it and opened London's eyes in the process.
"I show plays at team meetings and pull out positive plays, negative plays, whatever, and there was a play we threw a fade route to Keeon and I don't know who the cornerback was but it doesn't make a difference," London recalled at practice Thursday. "That guy with that big frame, that vertical leap. Put the ball up and let him go get it."
Johnson could be the answer for a Virginia team desperately looking for a spark on the outside, and the rising sophomore understands he could become the 'Hoos go-to receiver.
"I can be," Johnson said. "I just have to keep trusting myself, trusting my teammates and we can get the job done."
He says he's using these spring practices to get a better grasp of offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild's offense, and judging by some of the highlight-reel catches he's made, it's starting to sink in.
"(The offseason) helped me grow into a more stable receiver, not just running routes but mentally reading coverages and things like that," Johnson explained. "I'm starting to study more, where I should line up, that way I can have more room to make more catches in the endzone and the sidelines."
London believes Johnson can also help heal the Cavaliers ills in the red zone by becoming a key threat inside the 20.
"He's got to believe when the ball goes up like that, it belongs to him. We play a lot of small corners in our conference and when you get a size receiver like that who can go up, it's a beautiful thing."