Lost amidst the worst defeat of the Mario Cristobal era — a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of No. 24 Utah, which extinguished Oregon’s pipe dream of a playoff run — was a pair of receivers.
Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd’s careers met unceremonious ends this past weekend.
Johnson injured his right foot in the second half against Washington State, and Redd didn’t travel with the team to Salt Lake City on Saturday. Both are out for the season and have played their final game in Oregon uniforms.
Mark Helfrich recruits who played through the Willie Taggart season in 2017, the two experienced both a Rose Bowl victory and a lost COVID-19 year. The duo represents more than the latest casualties in a year marred by injury. As they depart, so marks a changing of the guard at the receiver position.
Johnson and Redd were supposed to spend their fifth and final seasons with the Ducks in the limelight, building their cases as NFL prospects. Instead, they spent it taking on run blocks and watching balls sail over their heads and out of their reach.
You could see the frustration in the beleaguered receivers’ body language. The same offensive limitations pushed Mycah Pittman, formerly the offensive crown jewel of the 2019 recruiting class, out of the program and into the transfer portal.
Johnson, a former three-star and Redd, a former four-star cornerback recruit, got stuck in the crossfire: an Oregon offense trying to reinvent itself and establish an identity on the ground after losing Justin Herbert to the 2020 NFL Draft.
After marginal roles as true freshmen during the 7-6 Taggart season, Johnson and Redd became the second and third options in 2018.
Redd was a gadget player much of his career, but spent the latter half proving his chops as a complete receiver. Johnson had the package, but was impaired by drop issues. Then over the course of a year, he became the Ducks’ most sure-handed target, exploding for career highs in catches (57), yards (836) and touchdowns (seven) as a junior in 2019.
Johnson leaves Oregon with 139 catches for 1,928 yards and 15 touchdowns — Redd with 131, 1,435 and 16. They’re No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, on Oregon’s all-time receptions list.
The Ducks lost three starting receivers in a week. Without the pair of super-seniors, the 6-foot-5 Devon Williams should receive the brunt of the available targets. He leads the Ducks with 430 yards and three touchdowns and has shown the big-play ability that launched him into the nation’s top 40 recruits as a high school senior.
It’s that exact blueprint the Ducks have looked to capitalize on in recent recruiting classes. Now, fans get a glimpse of the new normal at the position: tall, highly-touted speedsters.
Freshmen Troy Franklin (6-foot-2) and Dont’e Thornton (6-foot-4) were both top 60 in the nation in last year’s class and, alongside Williams and Kris Hutson, comprise a suddenly gutted position group.
The careers of the final pre-Cristobal tenure receivers ended abruptly, but Oregon’s receiving corps has as much raw talent and height as it ever has; perhaps next season the Ducks will figure out how to fully utilize it.