The Award-Winning Magazine Offering The Most Complete Coverage of Sooner Sports
  HOME FEATURE STORY SUBSCRIBE OU SPORTS IN THE NEWS COVER ARCHIVE WRITERS CONTACT US      ADVERTISE
More Recent Stories

Marquise Brown Q&A

Road Warrior

The Greatest Rivalry

Road Warrior

Hard Work

Road Warrior

To The Point

King's Corner

The Draft

To The Point

NFL Bound

Looking Back: Billy Vessels

Road Warrior

King's Corner

NFL Spotlight

Boomer Bio

Lincoln Riley Q&A

Keys To Success

End of an Era

Stepping Down

Dominating Force

2017 Recruiting

OU finished off a memorable 2016 season on high note

Road Warrior

Emmanuel Beal Q&A

Fast & Furious

Road Warrior

OU vs. Texas: By The Numbers

King's Corner

Steven Parker Q&A

Orlando Brown Q&A

Speed Burner

King's Corner

Next Step

Welcome Home

QB Questions?

Common Cause

Right on Target

Flying High at No. 1

Headed North

Playoff Bound

Dominique Alexander Q&A

California Connection

Red River Rejuvenation

To The Point

Ty Darlington Q&A

Aaron Ripkowski Q&A

Sooner Flashback: Jakie Sandefer

Next Generation

Hiring Time

Sooners hire new offensive coordinator

Samaje Perine Q&A

Aaron Ripkowski Q&A

Mike Stoops Q&A

Josh Heupel Q&A

All in the Family

Road Warrior

On Point

King's Corner

Sugar Bowl Review

Editorial

OU to meet Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Josh Heupel Q&A

Josh Heupel Q&A

Boomer Bio

The Closer

Sooner Success

Mike Stoops Q&A

Bill Bedenbaugh Q&A

Spring Football Review

Spring Football Review

To The Point

Boomer Bio: Julian Wilson

Boomer Bio: Chuka Ndulue

Boomer Bio: Bronson Irwin

Jalen Saunders Q&A

Patience Rewarded

Boomer Bio: Sterling Shepard

Taylor-made for Oklahoma

Tony Jefferson Q&A

Attention Getter

A Change of Plans

A Change of Plans

Proud Heritage

Hot Commodity

Boomer Bio; James Winchester

Boomer Bio; James Winchester

Boomer Bio: Aaron Ripkowski

Cornerstone

Playmaker

Playmaker

Strictly Striker

Javon Harris Q&A

Boomer Bio: Austin Haywood

Locked In & Loaded

Ben Habern Q&A

Landry Jones Q&A

The Classics

Top Ten Recruits

Bonus Prospects

Oklahoma Influences

Tight End Tough

Marquis On The Mark

Sooner Stars Set To Return

Jeremy Beal Q&A

Jamell Fleming Q&A

Boomer Bio: Trey Millard

Stacy McGee Q&A

Red River Tradition

Red River Tradition

James Patton Q&A

Boomer Bio: Eric Mensik

Quarterback Race

Quarterback Race

Boomer Bio: Kenny Stills

Boomer Bio: Marshall Musil

Getting His Kicks

Making The Right Moves In Recruiting

Bradford looks sharp in workout

No Doubt About It

Boomer Bio: Willie Martinez

Boomer Bio: Ronnell Lewis

Boomer Bio: Ronnell Lewis

Norman Bound

Showdown In The Sun

Jay Norvell Q&A

Jay Norvell Q&A

Boomer Bio: Dejuan Miller

Adrian Taylor doing just fine

Joseph Ibiloye Q&A

The Real Deal

Road Warrior

Meet Dusty Dvoracek This Saturday!

Casey Walker Q&A

Best of The Red River Rivalry

Bradford To Start Against Baylor

Facebook & Football

Tackling Machine

Keith Jackson Appearing this Friday in Norman

Josh Heupel Q&A

Boomer Bio: Stephen Good

Top Targets

Brent Venables Q&A

Boomer Bio: Cory Brandon

Tisdale and Griffin

Wayman Tisdale Dies

Sam Bradford Q&A

Auston English Q&A

Blake Griffin earns Naismith Award

Ryan Reynolds Q&A

The Wait Is Over

Outlook for 2009

Outlook for 2009

Staying Put

Bradford, Gresham, Williams Coming Back

Make Room For Sam

Lendy Holmes Q&A

Bradford Wins Heisman

Heisman Material

Boomer Bio: Frank Alexander

Sooners Headed To KC For Big 12 Title Game

Sudden Impact

Sudden Impact

Gerald McCoy Q&A

Gerald McCoy Q&A

Offensive linemen Roundtable

Boomer Bio: Mossis Madu

Boomer Bio: Mossis Madu

Travis Lewis Q&A

Travis Lewis Q&A

Auston English Q&A

Jackie Shipp Q&A

Bob Stoops Q&A

Boomer Bio

Theyve Got It Covered

Bradford Talks About Sooner Experience

Big Dreams

Plenty Of Things To Chew on this Offseason

Marcus Walker Q&A

Looking Ahead

Greater Expectations

Manny Being Manny

The Big Easy

Super Sidekick

English Lesson

Revved Up & Remodeled

Firmly Committed

A Cut Above

The Definition of Rivalry

On The Rise

Irresistible Force

Bookends

Bradford Named Starting QB

Venables Verbatim

Sooner Spectator & Rivals.com Teaming Up

Final Chapter

Catching Up With Sumlin

Welcome Back Little Joe

Wilson’s Defensive Wisdom

Reggie Smith Q&A

Malcolm Over The Middle

Fantastic Five

Thompson & Alexander To Sign Autographs

WE'RE BACK!!!!

GET READY FOR THE RETURN OF SOONER SPECTATOR!

OU’s Greatest

Boomer Bio: Brody Eldridge

Boomer Bio: Fred Strong

Dual Threat: Stephen Garcia

Thirty Reasons Why OU will beat Texas

Double Duty

Kody Cooke: A Conversation

Boomer Bio: Lendy Holmes

Welcome Back

Quick Five With Nic Harris

Road Warrior

The Opposition

Defensive Backing

Recruiting: Crimson Bloodline

Wilson Weighs In

Replacing Runnels?

Defensive Outlook

Top Shelf: Austin Box

Rufus Revelations

Reaction to Capel Hiring

A.D. Unscripted

OU will miss Sampson

OU Scrimmage Report

Joey Halzle Q&A

Gray, OU prep for The Dance

Moore is Better

Sooners eye stretch run

Haskell remains a lost treasure

Boomer Bio: Patty Gasso

Sherri Coale Conversation

Taylor Made

Future Considerations

McCoy becomes a Sooner

Michael Neal Q&A

Recruiting: Dominique Franks Q&A

Strong Willed

Football Recruiting Notes

Remembering Billy Ball

Enough Gloom & Doom

Back In Business

Endowed Scholarships Announced

USC or Texas: The Lesser of Two Evils?

Stoops is not leaving OU

Sooners down Ducks in Holiday Bowl

Biding His Time

Kelvin Sampson Q&A

Next Stop Division I

Boomer Bio: Allen Patrick

Chris Messner Q&A

Bob Stoops' take on Bedlam Victory

Terrance Anderson's Journey

OU vs. Tech: The Answers

OU vs. Tech Matchups

Road Warrior

Stoops talks about OU's 36-30 win

OU vs. A&M matchups

OU Coaches’ Roundtable

Recruiting: Derek Burton

Boomer Bio: Juaquin Iglesias

Carl Pendleton Q&A

Sooners topple Huskers in Lincoln

OU-Nebraska Matchups

Recruiting: Ugo Chinasa

Sooners top Baylor

OU vs. Baylor Matchups

Recruiting: Offensive Line

Recruiting: Adron Tennell

Sooners top Jayhawks

OU vs. Kansas Matchups

Boomer Bio

A Pleasant Conversation

Texas tops Oklahoma

Red River Rivarly Matchups

Dusty Dvoracek: In The Trenches

Sooners Roll Past K-State

OU vs. K-State Matchups

Recruiting: Replenishing The Backfield

Boomer Bio

Sooners give one away

Recruiting Demarco Murray

C.J. Ah You Q&A

The Answers: OU vs. Tulsa

Not Pretty, But Sooners Win

Spectator Sneak Preview

Bob Stoops' take on TCU loss

Texas Christian Sacks Sooners

Moses leads Sooner tight ends

Rufus Alexander Q&A

Thompson gets nod at QB

Birdine Lost For Season

Sampson to Visit Kuwait for Hoops with Troops

Walk-on making noise at WR

Travis Wilson Q&A

Clint Ingram Q&A

Sooners open fall practice

Brent Venables Q&A

Sooner single-game tickets go on sale Monday

Questions about Sooners' aura not surprising

Joseph talks about summer workouts

OU at Big 12 Media Days

Kim Named to U.S. Walker Cup Team

Sooners name Golloway

Stephenson decides to stay at Wichita State

Stephenson takes OU head baseball job

Soon to be Sooners

New Sooner Nic Harris excited about new digs

2005 Season Preview Issue Available Now!!

Letter from the Editor

Q and A

Ever Elusive

Sooner Selections

Ole Miss powers past Sooners

OU's Weekly Sports Report

OU inks JUCO point guard

OU's Kim wins Big 12 Golf Title

White and Vermeil talk about first day of rookie camp

White gets a chance with Kansas City

Red Rallies to Down White

Big crowd expected

Prelude To Greatness?

Breaking Down The Offense

Spring football eases pain




On Sale At Newsstands Now!
Manny Being Manny
Slow Start Did Not Derail Johnson's Continued Emergence As Star

And just like that, in three blinks of an eye, Oklahoma's three amigos receiving corps is down to a bowl game, and then one more year.
Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson and Malcolm Kelly have been in the starting lineup since their freshman season. All were wide-eyed kids in 2005. Now all are seasoned veterans.

Kelly had his big breakout in 2006, catching 62 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Iglesias became a star this season, grabbing 60 for 854 yards and four TDs going into the Fiesta Bowl.

Will next year be the year that Johnson becomes the go-to guy? The way Johnson finished the 2007 season, coupled with the idea that Kelly might try to test his NFL draft stock in the spring, might turn a spotlight on Johnson. He’s certainly persevered this season and responded in the clutch.

“Good for Manny,” said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. “He’s battled through some injuries and a lot of guys have had their days in the limelight, and it’s nice that here’s a guy that’s maybe been our most consistent receiver — maybe not flashy on some catches — but been about as consistent as any of those guys.”

With the West Virginia game still to be played on Jan. 2, Johnson is fourth on the team in receiving with 27 catches, 423 yards and four TDs. In back-to-back games against Baylor and Texas Tech, Johnson caught eight passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns, including scores of 60 and 65 yards. He also had a clutch third-down reception against Missouri in the Big 12 title game that sparked a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

And, Wilson said, “Manny has also been our best blocker throughout the year.”

So why the slow start?

Johnson had all of five catches through the Sooners’ first five games. Having traded spots with Iglesias (Johnson is in the slot this season, Iglesias moved out wide), Johnson had a mere 26 yards on his first five receptions.

For a third-year player, shouldn’t Johnson have been a more consistent weapon from the outset?

“We thought in two-a-days,” Wilson said, “he was as good as any receiver we had.”

So what happened? Injuries.

Johnson sprained the meniscus cartilage in his knee during the Miami game and decided to play through it. He simply couldn’t run without pain.

“It bothered me for a little bit, but I still played throughout the games,” he said. “The coaches knew, so they kind of held back on some of the plays.”

While Johnson’s productivity suffered, new quarterback Sam Bradford started to build a rapport with Kelly, Iglesias and tight end Jermaine Gresham.

“Malcolm and Juaquin make some great plays down the field,” Johnson said. “Our offense has a lot of talent, so I just try to do the little things.”

Johnson is slight for a major-college receiver, standing 5-foot-11 and weighing around 185 pounds. But that’s after adding 10-12 pounds of muscle during the offseason. He’s needed every one of those pounds, too.

“From the slot, you really deal with the safeties a lot more than you deal with the corners, since you’re in there with the safeties,” he said. “You block linebackers and have to work around the linebackers and find little holes in the middle of the field.”

It wasn’t until the Texas game that Johnson had his first statistically sound performance, hauling in three catches for 25 yards. The following week, against Missouri, he caught two balls for 31 yards, including a sweet grab over the middle for 21 yards that showed the flash that earned him 46 catches for 548 yards and four TDs in his first two seasons.

Johnson had begun to get more comfortable in his new inside position, and his knee was feeling better.

“Manny’s been very positive,” said head coach Bob Stoops. “I think it’s hard sometimes, everybody wants to focus on one guy, but he’s showed he’s every bit that caliber of guy.”

He really began to show it the next week against Iowa State, catching a season-high five passes for 46 yards while the rest of the Sooner offense looked lifeless. Against Texas A&M, he had three grabs for 56 yards.

It was clear then that Manny was being Manny again.

“Early in the year, the safety involvement maybe clouded the middle of the field a little bit,” Wilson said. “Now, as we’ve thrown the ball more, we’re getting people playing truer pass coverages.”

Said Stoops, “He’s got in some spaces where our coaches felt he’d have a chance to outrun somebody or make a big play.”

And that’s exactly what happened the following week against Baylor.

Johnson caught an 11-yard pass in the first quarter, a sideline pattern that set up a later bomb, a 60-yard scoring catch from Bradford deep down the right sideline. He snagged a difficult ball over his right shoulder and tiptoed just inside the paint for his first touchdown since last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

“It was a great play by Manny running after the catch, tight-roping down the sideline,” Wilson said.

For Johnson, it was nice to find paydirt again, finally.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in the end zone,” said Johnson afterward.

He ended the Sooners’ next drive with a tough 13-yard touchdown grab in traffic. On OU’s next possession, Johnson ran a deep post and snagged a 42-yard bomb from Bradford on third-and-8.

“It felt real good to finally get some balls down the field so I could go get them,” he said.

The Sooners’ next game, of course, was a sour one. Bradford went out early against Texas Tech with a concussion, and the OU offense couldn’t get rolling until the fourth quarter.
That’s when Johnson heated up, getting free on a streak down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown that sparked backup QB Joey Halzle and the rest of the Sooner offense.

As the OU rally continued, Johnson and Halzle put the Sooners within striking distance on another difficult catch in traffic, a 9-yard touchdown. On two earlier drives, Halzle tried several times to find Johnson.

Suddenly, it was Johnson — once the forgotten receiver — who was getting all the balls thrown his way.

“I hate to say that he’s re-emerging — we always have known Manny to be a really good player for us, and he’s a three-year starter,” Stoops said. “I think sometimes it’s just opportunities, how people are defending you and where Sam goes with his read. We don’t have just one guy to throw it to. He beats a guy, Sam sees him, bam, there’s the ball. As much as anything, it’s where he is in the read progression and what coverages people are playing.”

So is Johnson the next big thing in the Sooner passing game?

He caught just 10 passes his freshman year, and although 2006 produced a career-high 36 catches, he averaged just 10 yards per reception. This season, averaging 15.7 yards per grab, he’s become a sure-handed, red-zone, deep-threat weapon.

“It’s fun to see him do so well,” Stoops said. “He’s a quality kid and a really good receiver, and he’s really made some huge plays.”

If Kelly does go pro, that’ll break up this three-man band that has remained remarkably close through the years. They lived together in the Bud Wilkinson freshman dorm, and they lived together in an off-campus house last season. This year, Kelly bought a dog, so he had to get his own place. But Johnson and Iglesias are still roommates, and Kelly’s never gone long.

“Those two guys are my brothers,” said Kelly. “We came in together. All three of us are always together now. I’m always over there playing the Nintento Wii.”

“We always joke around about how we’re brothers together, like best friends,” Iglesias said. “That’s the truth. Manny and Malcolm are the people I spend the most time with, my family away from home.”

Added Johnson, “We’re real close. I think you can ask any of the coaches. Wherever you see one of us, I’m sure you’ll see the other two not far behind.”

And looking back, the time has flown, for them and for their fans.

(Editor's Note: This story appears in the December Bowl Preview issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)