No. 8 in our countdown was Nickoe Whitley, the senior who is the lone returning starter from last year's defensive backfield. Much in the vein of what we talked about for the secondary this year, there are a ton of pieces to replace in the wide receiving corps. That's how we arrived at the number seven player on our list, Robert Johnson.
Johnson, a Junior from Oak Grove, was buried a bit last year on the depth chart behind seniors Arceto Clark, Chad Bumphis, and Chris Smith. Johnson made a few nice grabs in the chances that he got, but for the most part, he's been quiet in his time at State. Now we start a new year though, and in that new year, Robert will be asked to be a huge part of a retooled passing game that's looking to replace Bumphis, Smith, and Clark.
Make no mistake, the talent is there for Robert. He garnered attention out of high school for a reason, so it's no surprise that he's found his way to a starting position in his Junior season. The biggest thing for Robert, much along the lines of his fellow new starter Joe Morrow, is for him to be able to finally take that talent and translate it to catches, yards, and touchdowns on the field. State needs RJ to make the big catch on third down, to pull in the big TD late in the game, and to become that go-to receiver in the offense. Robert will also probably be looked to as a leader in this unit, so there's an opportunity for him to really become not only an integral part of this offense, but a positive influence on the young talent around him on State's two-deep. In 2013, Robert will get the opportunity to become the receiver in this offense, and his ability to take advantage of those opportunities will greatly influence MSU's chances at success.