It wasn’t long ago that Mike Gesicki and Pat Freirmuth roamed the shallows for the Nittany Lions’ offense. This fall, however, a trio of flex options possessed with unique traits at the tight end spot could spearhead what is expected to be an improved offensive attack under James Franklin. A program on the heels of two substandard campaigns in comparison to the multitude of double-digit win seasons in the last handful of years, while Brenton Strange and Theo Warren—as well as redshirt freshman Khalil Dinkins and early enrollee Jerry Cross—stand out, one name has risen above the rest within the tight ends room in Happy Valley. It’s time you get to know Ontario native Theo Johnson.
A unique blend of size, athleticism, and power, Johnson’s increased workload this fall could see his name rise among league-wide draft boards. And while his skill set and tape could slot him among the country’s elite flex talents, the man behind the facemask presents a multi-layered individual from a background where nothing was ever a given.
A story of strength & perseverance.
🤍 @Theo_Johnson_ + @LawMomx6 pic.twitter.com/5ldR38Kq4G
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) May 8, 2022
One of six boys, Theo grew up quickly—he had to. Being part of an athletic household initially fueled his desire to compete on the gridiron. After initially making waves at Holy Names High School, Johnson—who received offers from every major program in the country—signed with the Nittany Lions as a four-star prep talent in 2020 and was the highest-ranked Canadian prospect since Neville Gallimore in 2015, according to 247Sports. An advanced receiver of the football, Johnson’s tandem of speed, paired with a large catch radius and natural ball skills presents a consistent mismatch when working within the intermediate areas of the offense. Used primarily as a wideout at the prep level, his ability to block and displace defenders was an initial concern when making the transition to college ball, but if 2021 was a sign, he’s come along quite nicely as he enters year three.
Just need to make sure this Theo Johnson block is documented. pic.twitter.com/LbSIXsszxA
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) October 31, 2021
An impressively-built talent at 6-foot-6, he’s added more than 10 pounds of positive weight in his first two seasons on campus and slots in this fall as one of the primary targets for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. Appearing in 10 games last season, Johnson’s numbers were similar to that of Strange, amassing 213 yards on 19 receptions. But with Jahan Dotson off to the NFL and another offseason under his belt, the uber-versatile talent that can play the F, H, and Y alignments along the line of scrimmage could double his production—or more—this fall as Penn State looks to compete within a loaded Big Ten East division headlined by Ohio State and Michigan.
QB2 @TaquanRoberson_ ➡️ @theo_Johnson_
See you in prime time @AuburnFootball
— Whiteout Weekly (@whiteoutweekly) September 11, 2021
An athlete rooted in hard work and determination, as more snaps come, the better Johnson will ultimately get. A smooth, fluid athlete that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up late into the night all season long, Theo Johnson checks a ton of boxes as the next potential in-line talent out of Happy Valley that could soon carve his path onto NFL-branded turf.
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