Friday, September 10, 1999

'Midwest Coast' offense fits Miami receiver




BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sly Johnson is the biggest fan of the Midwest Coast offense. That's what Miami University coach Terry Hoeppner calls his system.

        He says it's a combination of power football and the controlled passing of the West Coast offense that Bill Walsh made famous.

        The Midwest Coast offense could make Johnson famous. The junior wide receiver from Miami, Fla., caught four balls for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Northwestern. He had another 51-yard TD catch called back.

        “With the new offense, I felt the opportunities would be there,” he said.

        Johnson should get some more opportunities when the RedHawks go to Morgantown to play West Virginia Saturday.

        Johnson caught only 11 passes for 131 yards and no TDs last year, and four of his catches and 71 of his yards came in the opener. It was a disappointing year for a player who caught 20 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman.

        But Johnson's big day versus Northwestern was not a complete surprise.

        “He had a great camp,” Hoeppner said. “He's been playing like that since Aug.11. It was good to see him start like that. Sly is a smart kid and very fast.”

        Johnson is the fastest player on the RedHawks roster. He has run a 4.23 40-yard dash.

        Johnson was a typical Miami recruit. The big schools in Florida ignored him, largely because he was so small (5-foot-7, 148 pounds). The big schools that did recruit him (Purdue and Virginia Tech) wanted him to play defensive back.

        “My forte is catching the ball and running around with it,” Johnson said. “I wanted to play receiver.”

        Miami gave him the chance and hoped he would develop. Johnson was only 17 when he started at Miami.

        “We thought he had what it takes,” Hoeppner said. “But recruiting is unscientific. It's hard to project. We've had some that haven't worked out. But Sly is such a quality kid and comes from such a quality family.”

        Johnson grew to 5-9 and filled out to 182 pounds.

        His speed is a nice complement to Trevor Gaylor, Miami's leading returning receiver. Gaylor is 6-4 and 192 pounds. Gaylor caught two passes for 30 yards against Northwestern.

        “It's perfect,” Johnson said. “He can catch those high balls. I can run and catch balls that are overthrown.”

        Johnson expects to see a lot of one-on-one coverage because of the threat of Travis Prentice.

        “Northwestern had eight men in the box,” Johnson said, “and he still got 153 yards. Imagine what he'd do against the nickel. Teams are going to have to try to stop either the run or pass. It's going to be hard to stop both.”

       



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