Taariq Johnson committed to Cal when Sonny Dykes was still the Head Coach of the California Golden Bears. He stayed firm in his commitment through Dykes’ departure and ultimately started his Cal career alongside current HC Justin Wilcox last January. Despite getting the early start with the new coaching staff, the 6’2” wide reciever did not get to see the field last season. Instead, he redshirted.
“That redshirt year gave me some time to actually sit back and learn the offense. Sit back with the playbook and actually watch players and watch their craft: how they do certain things, run certain routes, read certain coverages, and stuff like that. Being able to watch that my redshirt year was tremendous to my growth.”
So fast forward one year. Johnson has had: a year in the weight room; a year learning the playbook; a year learning the in’s and out’s of the position; a year taking the mental reps by watching guys like Vic Wharton III, Kanawai Noa, and Jordan Veasy; and a year of practicing.
What does that do to a player? If he loves the game, then he wants to go out there and compete, he wants to take the reps, and wants his name called each and every snap. Taariq Johnson sure is playing that way. Five open practices, and he has probably dropped two or three catchable passes thrown his way. He’s currently playing with four different quarterbacks—but, to him that’s all a part of football. Taariq explains that for him, it’s about going out there and running routes and catching balls. Simplifying the game may be the best way for a young receiver to succeed on the field.
He’s making the most of his opportunity with some of the returning wide receivers sitting out due to injury—and it does not look like he’s about to let that go. However, breaking into the rotation at wide receiver will be no easy task. The Bears return 123 Receptions, 1659 Yards and 9 Touchdowns in Vic Wharton III and Kanawai Noa. Not to mention the returns of Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall.
The one role that he could fulfill for the position is the hole left by Jordan Veasy. Veasy led the team with 6 recieving touchdowns and was a redzone favorite as a big-bodied wide receiver. Taariq fits the physical mold and his sure hands could make him into a nightmare match-up on the outside in the redzone.
There’s still a ways to go before the start of the season, but Taariq Johnson looks like he’s ready to go and in his words, “No goals [for the upcoming season] yet, I just hope to contribute wherever I can.”