Another Johnson boosts Jackets

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ATLANTA --- James Johnson wanted to make sure Georgia Tech fans wouldn't miss that other Johnson too much this season.

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James Johnson, who has been bothered by injuries this season, had seven catches for 136 yards against the Hokies.  Morris News Service
Morris News Service
James Johnson, who has been bothered by injuries this season, had seven catches for 136 yards against the Hokies.

He never expected to challenge Calvin Johnson's numbers -- 76 catches, 1,202 yards, 16 touchdowns in 2006 -- but he tried to become the go-to wide receiver.

"I've definitely got to make plays," Johnson said in a preseason interview. "I just have to keep getting open."

Unexpected injuries changed things for Johnson. A bum knee slowed him in the preseason. A strained quad and sore ribs plagued him in September and October.

He's healthy now, and just in time to give Georgia Tech a strong presence on offense. Johnson caught seven passes for 136 yards in Thursday's loss to Virginia Tech after catching 11 balls for 155 yards in the season's first eight games.

The breakout performance didn't surprise coach Chan Gailey.

"He just hadn't had many opportunities because he hadn't been out there on a consistent basis," Gailey said. "I think he'll continue to make big plays for us." A healthy Johnson could spark Georgia Tech's sluggish pass offense. The Yellow Jackets rank next to last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in pass offense -- a yard better than Miami -- and last in passing efficiency.

Underclassmen Greg Smith and Demaryius Thomas have posted big receiving games. Thomas turned in a nine-catch, 139-yard performance against Maryland, and Smith has three games with five or more catches.

But neither has been consistent enough to be classified as a go-to guy. Johnson, who caught 39 passes for 608 yards last season, must fill that void.

"There are times in the game where we need a first down on an eight-yard out route," quarterback Taylor Bennett said. "He's the guy we trust and go to."

The Yellow Jackets need to win two of their last three games to ensure themselves of an 11th consecutive bowl invitation.

"We feel like a lot of people don't believe in us, so we've got to come together as a team and we'll come through," Johnson said.

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.


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