Whether you love or hate them, coaches usually know best.
That’s why OUInsider.com is unveiling a new feature called “Coaches Corner.” In it, an Oklahoma recruit will be discussed in a question-and-answer session by one of their own coaches as well as an opposing coach.
For the first “Coaches Corner” we asked Gilmer (Texas) High School defensive coordinator Todd Barr and Lindale (Texas) High School football coach Greg Owens about Sooner wide receiver commitment Manuel Johnson of Gilmer.
And in exclusive interviews with OUInsider.com, both coaches shared their thoughts on him.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder with 4.47 speed from Gilmer (Texas) High School caught 81 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, all school records.
He committed to the Sooners in June, choosing Oklahoma over Houston, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Penn State and Texas Tech.
In November, Gilmer beat Lindale 45-0, a District 3A-11 game in which Johnson caught four passes for 60 yards.
TODD BARR, GILMER HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, 5TH YEAR
OUInsider.com: What is your first memory of Manuel?
Barr: “The year I got here, he was in the eighth grade. He could run, jump and catch. He was so much more mature than any other kid out there. You could see the leadership in him. He played quarterback for us at the time and to see everybody rally around him was incredible. We knew right then he was going to be something very, very special. He ended up moving to Dallas for his freshman year and we were literally sick about that. But when he came back for his sophomore year, we were very excited about what he could bring to our ball club.”
OUInsider.com: What is your favorite Manuel Johnson highlight?
Barr: “Probably this year when we were playing Daingerfield (Texas) High School. We were on our 40-yardline and we threw a seven-yard slant to him. He was double-covered and they were playing zone behind him with a free safety. He made a spectacular catch, broke it, came across, then up the middle and outran everybody. It was just a super play.”
OUInsider.com: What are Manuel’s strengths?
Barr: “He has the ability to lead and get people around him to follow. He’s a very, very hard worker. He takes nothing for granted. He doesn’t consider himself to be a great athlete. He gets his reps and takes butt chewin’ like anybody else. He’s a super kid.”
OUInsider.com: Where does he need improvement?
Barr: “In the weight room. For his size, he needs to add more mass to play in college. That won’t be a problem. I know he didn’t lift any when he was up in Dallas, because he played four sports — football, basketball, track and baseball. He’s just now learning how to lift and that type of thing right now.”
OUInsider.com: After Manuel is done playing at Oklahoma, how will Sooner fans remember him?
Barr: “He’ll be right up there with Mark Clayton. I really think he’s going to come in and make an impact his freshman year. By the time it’s said and done, I think he’ll be one of the best ones to ever come through there.”
GREG OWENS, LINDALE HIGH SCHOOL, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, 7TH YEAR
OUInsider.com: What are your thoughts on Manuel Johnson?
Owens: “He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a kid that when he touches the ball can take it the distance at any time. He’s a playmaker. He’s a very explosive player.”
OUInsider.com: How did your team defend him?
Owens: “(Laughing)…We didn’t defend him very well to be honest. They beat us pretty good. Last year, they had so many other weapons that we basically single-covered him. He did hurt us a few times, but he was not that big of a factor in our ballgame. He did catch a few balls though. This year, he’ll be a major focus of ours. He’s a kid we’ll try to double every play. I know they’re going to try and move him around and get him isolated on linebackers, but we’ll make sure we double him.”
OUInsider.com: What are Manuel's strengths?
Owens: “His ability to get open. He’s a great pass route runner. With the ball in his hands, he’s extremely explosive. They do a bunch of stuff with him. They get to him with a pop sweep in which they just turnaround and hand it to him. I think they’re going to play him sometimes at quarterback this season. They’re going to get the ball in his hands. He’s a guy that we’re definitely going to have to pay attention to at all times. You can’t shut him down. We’re going to just try and contain him.”
OUInsider.com: Where does he need improvement?
Owens: “It’s going to be a mental game. It’s the confidence level of knowing that he can beat college defensive backs one-on-one, just believing in himself and being the go-to-man making the big play. There’s no question that athletically he’s got the ability. I think the mental game is where he’s going to have to keep his composure, because people are going to do things. People are going to double-team him and take him out of the game plan. He’s going to have to learn to mature, be patient and be a team player to the point of understanding his team might have to go to someone else to win ballgames.”
OUInsider.com: How do you Manuel fitting in at Oklahoma?
Owens: “I think he slides right in there. I think he’s so gifted that he can play inside receiver and even outside receiver. I see a kid that can come in there as a freshman and catch a lot of balls if he has to. He offers a bunch, is very versatile and could play anywhere.”