In the August sun, Washington wide receiver James Johnson was relegated to slow, solo journeys up and down the steps of Husky Stadium.
Johnson sprained his right ankle early in fall camp and the injury took on the personality of a comic-strip wife, nagging Johnson nearly every day.
An inspired start and overall solid freshman season in 2009 led Johnson to be considered a key among a strong returning receiving corps. The group has been s0-so as a whole, but none have had a more disappointing season than Johnson.
After 39 catches for 422 yards last season, Johnson is slightly off pace to match those totals this year. He has one catch for three yards.
The injury slowed him. The re-emergence of D’Andre Goodwin kicked Johnson down in the pecking order. When he did finally play, he was out of sync, collecting false start penalties.
Johnson was exiled from the receiver rotation. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian was asked intermittently about Johnson’s whereabouts and answered that the sophomore just was not in the rotation at the moment.
Johnson, who put 15 pounds of muscle on in the offseason, did not talk until Saturday. The clavicle injury that will keep Cody Bruns out of the Holiday Bowl has opened a spot for Johnson. He’s also from Valley Center, CA., about 20 minutes northwest of San Diego, the site of the Holiday Bowl. Even his presence in practice has been on the uptick in the days leading toward the bowl. Johnson is Washington’s biggest and strongest receiver, a sturdy foil to the bullies in the Nebraska secondary.
“I had a lot of goals and I got hurt early and it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to,” Johnson said. “But you’ve got to keep working and keep working and working and working and just have faith that things will get better next year.”
Johnson did not travel with the team to Arizona. Turns out he was sick. His injury, missed time in camp, sickness and the play of others left Johnson backpedaling.
“Of course it is frustrating but that’s no one’s fault but my own,” Johnson said. “Fate with injuries and everything, it’s no one’s fault but my own.”
Johnson says he has been healthy for weeks. A chance in the Holiday Bowl may change Johnson’s assessment of his 2010 fate.