Olabisi Johnson is a Colorado kid through and through. A Lakewood, Colo. native, Johnson grew up just 60 miles down the road. After seeing much success in one of the toughest football conferences in Colorado (Jeffco) while playing at Bear Creek High School, Johnson committed to Colorado State in 2014 and never looked back.
In his first game with the Rams (Sept. 9, 2015), Johnson hauled in his first collegiate touchdown, a 13-yard screen pass that he took all the way to the end zone. Johnson would only catch one more pass that season, as the Rams were loaded with a receiving corps that included Joe Hansley and Rashard Higgins, but that did not mean Johnson was going unnoticed.
Throughout the 2015 fall season and into the 2016 spring, all anyone in the program could talk about was “Bisi” and how impressed they were with the work he was putting in as a true freshman.
Coaches raved about how hard he was working during offseason conditioning programs. Players praised him for his attention to detail in the film room, always looking for ways to improve his cuts and general route-running ability.
Fast forward to the fall of 2016. With Hansley and Higgins no longer in the picture, expectations for Johnson were fairly high. The Rams picked up a pair of JUCO transfers in Michael Gallup and Dietrich Clark, but Johnson was one of the few pass-catchers on the roster to have actually seen playing time with the green and gold.
Johnson did have success last season, finishing his sophomore season with 28 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns. However, more than 25 percent of those totals came in the Idaho Potato Bowl against the Vandals of Idaho.
Now heading into his third year with the program, Johnson is looking to feed off the excitement of his record-setting performance in the bowl game and become a consistent threat in the Rams passing attack.
“I have to produce,” Johnson said. “I can’t just be the second guy this year. Of course there’s Mike (Gallup), but I need to be another go-to guy that can produce consistently on the field.”
With Gallup drawing double-teams from opposing defenses, Johnson knows that there will be room for guys like Clark and himself to find holes in the defense. Johnson may not have the speed of Clark or Gallup, but he currently runs the crispest routes on the team, a skill he developed from working with “Hollywood” and “Super Joe” during his freshman year.
“I love when Mike (Gallup) gets the ball and I get the ball,” Johnson said. “When all the receivers can produce during the game, our offense is great. During the bowl game, unfortunately we lost, but people saw what we are capable of. Especially the receivers, we had a good time trying to come back in that game. We fell short but it was a good day for receivers.”
CSU lost to Idaho 61-50 on Dec. 22, but Gallup (six) and Johnson (seven) combined for a total of 13 receptions for 383 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Johnson set a Potato Bowl record with 265 receiving yards in the game.
Johnson is certainly looking forward to the possibility of playing a larger role within the aerial attack but he also recognized that the foundation of Bobo’s offense has always been the ground attack. If the wide receivers do a better job at blocking for the running backs this fall, it is only going to help them by opening up the field for the passing attack later in the game.
“(Wide receivers) Coach Whitted harps on it constantly,” Johnson said. “In individual drills that’s all we did today. Just run blocking, breaking down and stuff like that. I think we have one year under our belt from last year and now this year should be really good for us. We’ve worked on it a lot. The coaches expect us to make those blocks.”
What are his goals for this season? Simple. Consistently produce and help the team win its first conference championship since 2002.
“We expect nothing less than to win the Mountain division and then a conference championship,” Johnson said.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.