- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 7 Marcus Johnson
Junior wide receiver
Recruitment rewind: Johnson was originally committed to Texas Tech, then changed his mind and pledged to Texas A&M in November 2011. There was much debate among Texas coaches about whether to offer Johnson, a three-star recruit from League City (Texas) Clear Springs, and those who fought for him finally won out in December. Nearly a week after choosing the Aggies, Johnson backed out and committed to his dream school almost instantly after his offer arrived. The Longhorns staff initially feared it didn't have room for Johnson in the class, but that ultimately became a nonissue when receiver commit Thomas Johnson backed out in January and signed with A&M.
Career so far: Like Kendall Sanders, Johnson didn't redshirt as a freshman but was hardly used, recording zero catches in eight games. He earned an expanded role in 2013 and made a name for himself with his first career TD, a 59-yard bomb against Oklahoma, and a 120-yard performance at TCU. Johnson finished with 22 receptions for 350 yards and led the Longhorns with 15.9 yards per catch.
Best-case scenario for 2014: How's this for a potential ceiling: Texas' first 1,000-yard receiver since Jordan Shipley. Those are probably unfairly high expectations considering this could end up being a run-heavy offense with quarterback issues, and Louisville never had a 1,000-yard receiver in Teddy Bridgewater's three seasons. But Johnson will have a major role in Texas' passing attack and could put up some big numbers as a junior.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Having this kind of supposed 4.3 40-time speed is plenty useful, but not if you don't have a reliable QB who gets you the ball. If Texas' quarterback play is shaky, expect another modest year from Johnson with a few big plays but not enough targets. Johnson suffered a minor knee injury during fall camp last season but recovered in time for the opener. He's perfectly healthy now and in great shape to hold down a starting job.
Future expectations: Johnson has two years left and a lot of promise. Whether he can develop into a future NFL talent will really depend on what kind of opportunities he gets in this offense. He's got everything you want in a big-time slot receiver and is more polished than most probably realize. He's proven he can beat Big 12 defenses deep. Can he do it week after week? If so, he could be one of the conference's breakout wideouts in 2014.