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Penn State football: Juwan Johnson seeking transfer, plans to leave Nittany Lions

Juwan Johnson is moving on. Or at least, he’s planning to.

Johnson has entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to a Friday report by The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. The redshirt junior wide receiver, who graduated in December, would be eligible to play immediately.

Listed essentially as a free agent in the portal, Johnson can still return to Penn State and play in 2019 if he doesn’t find the right opportunity. But given his situation, that’s highly unlikely.

Johnson, who struggled with drops and injury in 2018, would have to fight for a spot on the depth chart if he came back to Happy Valley. KJ Hamler took hold of the slot, and on the outside, the Nittany Lions have depth and promise in freshmen Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and Daniel George. Plus, redshirt freshman Cam Sullivan-Brown and incoming 2019 signee John Dunmore will factor in, too.

Instead of dealing with that pile-up, Johnson — after showcasing what he can do, whether it was the one-handed catch against Ohio State this year or his game-winning snag at Iowa — is trying to recapture that form.

In 2017, Johnson emerged as one of Trace McSorley’s favorite receivers even while competing with DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, Saquon Barkley and Saeed Blacknall for targets. The 225-pounder logged 54 catches (tied for the team lead) and 701 receiving yards (second behind Hamilton).

With Barkley, Hamilton, Gesicki and Blacknall departing to the NFL, Johnson was expected to take a serious step forward this year. In May, Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting had the wideout going No. 7 overall in a way-too-early 2019 NFL mock draft. “It’s all there,” Galko said of Johnson at the time. “He really has that potential, that ceiling to be one of the NFL’s best receivers.”

But he didn’t show it. Johnson called 2018 “rough” in mid-December, and that’s an understatement. The New Jersey native finished the regular season with 23 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown.

Some thought that Johnson might choose to enter the 2019 NFL draft. ESPN analyst Steve Muench told the CDT in early December that Johnson would be a projected late fourth-round or early fifth-round pick.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t get drafted,” Muench said. “But he’s gone from a Day 2 guy with potential to move up — I mean, when people saw him last year, he was building momentum. You could see flashes of a guy who could be an early-round pick.”

But after a frustrating 2018, Johnson was never going to go that high in April. Maybe with a fresh start, he will in 2020.

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