This week’s game: Middle Tennessee State (4-2) at No. 15 MSU (6-0), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Brock Huard and Jessica Mendoza)
There’s been plenty of talk about the depth MSU has at receiver, but with Malcolm Johnson back in action, tight end is one of the deepest and strongest positions on the team now. In today’s Journal, I examine the impact that position has on MSU’s offense.
Johnson made an impact his first game back, with two catches for 34 yards, including a tremendous one-handed touchdown catch to seal the 41-31 win over Tennessee. Johnson, who tore his right pectoral muscle over the summer, looked like his old self despite missing the first five games. He credited MSU’s strength and conditioning staff, as well as the Jugs machine.
“I have a rule: I drop one ball in practice, I try to catch 100 Jugs for that one ball. I try to catch as many balls as possible,” Johnson said.
On his big TD catch, Johnson reeled in Tyler Russell‘s pass with his left hand while getting one foot down inbounds. Those are two distinct actions, and both register high on the degree-of-difficulty scale just by themselves.
“That comes in practice, practicing and practicing over and over so that you’ll be prepared for the game,” Johnson said. “Like coach (Dan) Mullen says, if you practice well, you’ll be prepared for the game well.”
The importance of Johnson’s return can’t be overstated, but all three tight ends add something unique to the offense. They give Russell even more options, and they present mismatches for opposing defenses. All three tight ends actually played different positions in high school: Johnson and Brandon Hill were receivers, while Marcus Green was a running back.
“We feel like us being the tight ends, we feel like we can make any play,” Hill said. “Regardless of who’s number is being called, we want the coaches to have confidence in all us to do our job and make plays.”
I’ve got more from all three guys in the videos below: Johnson, Green, and then Hill.