By James Crepea

The Oregonian

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When: 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31

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EUGENE — Juwan Johnson gives Oregon something it was sorely lacking last season at wide receiver: Height.

The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Johnson is the prototypical X receiver. His size, speed and catch radius are the things offensive coordinators and wide receivers coaches fantasize about for the outside position.

While Johnson has been with the starters at the X position, where he had 25 catches for 352 yards and a touchdown while at Penn State last season and 54 receptions for 701 yards and a score the year before, Oregon is also experimenting with the graduate transfer at slot, a role he has never played before.

“I’ve always been outside so going inside is a bit of a change,” Johnson said. “Definitely different. I’ve never even thought of playing inside. It’s a new world in there. You can go inside or outside (running a route). I know outside you can go both ways, but inside it’s a whole different world, you got to face safeties and corners and read linebackers. It’s such a different world. I commend guys like Mycah (Pittman) and (Jaylon) Redd, you got to play smart to play that position. It’s definitely raising my IQ of playing football and letting me go out there and do some things I’ve never done before.”

The personnel package with Johnson on the inside allows the Ducks to play 6-foot-5 backup receiver Bryan Addison at X, creating a tandem of vertical threats. That could be particularly effective in the red zone and on third down, especially if paired with a tight end like Cam ­McCormick or Jake Breeland as well.

“Big bodies always present problems,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “I thought we saw that last year in the College Football Playoff right? Big bodies kind of reign supreme during that run for those teams. I do feel that we’re bigger, but I also feel that our slots are also really explosive and fast and they have a great feel for the maneuver routes, some of the stuff underneath and some of the stuff where you blow by guys as well. It’s an added dimension and certainly it’s something we always explore and look at. We do feel very comfortable with the progression of the red zone package.”

Though a skyscraping personnel package of receivers was naturally a possibility, the right foot injury to Brenden Schooler forced Oregon to shuffle wide outs and grouping more and at a faster pace in fall camp. Combined with four true freshmen and the addition of Johnson, there are a lot of receivers learning timing with Justin Herbert and getting acclimated to a new offense and each other.

“Obviously losing Schooler was a blow, but now we’ve got some guys that haven’t really played that much together,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “So you’re trying to find chemistry between Herbert and the group and quarterbacks and moving those guys to different places to see what matchups you’re able to find or leverage you can play is something we’re playing with. Addison has done a real good job of coming forward and Juwan, moving him around has been good.”

To be clear, Johnson is unquestionably Oregon’s top X receiver and Addison is right behind him. But if an opposing secondary is particularly undersized or if the Ducks want to create certain matchups or face specific situations, going with a skyscraping package of wide outs is a very real option that did not exist last season.

“It’s scary,” receivers coach Jovon Bouknight said of the options available with Johnson inside. “His size. He’s got some twitch with his strength, him and (Addison). That’s what makes it scary when you talk about if they want to put that nickel guy and per se, most nickels are more of the shiftier, smaller guys. How are they going to play us? Are they going to really play their nickel there or are they going to try to match it and maybe create a mismatch on the outside? I don’t know.”

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