If there were any doubts Tyler Johnson would return for his senior season with the Gophers in 2019, the star wide receiver put them to rest Monday night.
“Last ride,’’ Johnson tweeted with a photo of him scoring a touchdown, another indication that he’ll be back to chase more Gophers receiving records this fall. Monday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare their intention to enter the 2019 NFL draft.
Johnson, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree in 2018, hinted after the Gophers’ 34-10 victory over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26 that he would return. “Basically, not done yet,” the former Minneapolis North standout said after catching two touchdown passes against the Yellow Jackets.
Johnson assembled one of the best seasons in Gophers history in 2018, finishing with 78 receptions (second most in a Gophers single season) for school records of 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had six 100-yard receiving games, which included four in a row in Big Ten play, a feat that no other Gopher has accomplished.
In his Minnesota career, the 6-2, 200-pounder has 127 receptions (10th in school history), 1,987 receiving yards (seventh) and 20 touchdown catches (fourth). Johnson needs 1,133 yards to break Eric Decker’s school record (3,119 from 2006-09) and 12 TDs to break Ron Johnson’s record (31 from 1998-2001). Decker is first on the Gophers’ career receptions list, 100 ahead of Tyler Johnson.
Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca saw Johnson improving as the season went on.
“He’s just so much better with his details than he was last year. He understands the game a lot better,’’ Ciarrocca said during preparation for the Quick Lane Bowl. “He understands the different coverage looks he’s getting and what they’re trying to do and what’s the best way to attack that particular look. He plays faster because he has a really good command of what the defense is trying to do to him.
“The other thing that’s really come along for him is he’s done a much better job of catching the football,’’ Ciarrocca added. “He’s always made the spectacular catches since the first day I got here, but he lacked consistency last year. If I was critical of him in anything early in the year, it was that he lacked a little bit of consistency in catching the ball.’’