TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston is quickly emerging as one of the best in the Big 12 conference. The 6-foot-4 junior was targeted 12 times while battling an injury in the first four games but has made the most of 22 receptions in the past two games.
In those 22 catches, Johnston collected 386 yards and two touchdowns, with a 17.5-yard average per catch. His physical stature, speed, and high-point catch ability make for a potential mismatch against a Kansas State secondary with only one starter listed above six-foot, Julius Brents: 6-foot-4.
5-foot-10-inch safety Drake Cheatum is the shortest member in the Wildcat secondary. While the height disadvantage presents challenges on Saturday, the Texas native emphasizes the effectiveness of fundamentals in containing TCU receivers.
“Just being good with our technique, playing the ball in the air and stuff like that, that’s pretty much it,” Cheatum said. “Try to limit putting ourselves in bad positions with jump balls and stuff like that with our technique. That’s going to be really important.”
In the Horned Frogs’ past two games against two ranked opponents, Johnston scored on a 25-yard reception against Oklahoma State in overtime to lead 37-30. Against then No. 19 Kansas, Johnston tied for second in the FBS with 14 receptions in a game. His touchdown catch in the final minute helped TCU beat the Jayhawks 38-31.
“The last few weeks he’s been off the charts, one of the best receivers in college football,” K-State head coach Chris Kleiman said on Tuesday. “What has been so impressive is the yards after catch. He’s always been able to go up and get it because he’s a big, strong, physical receiver but catching the ball on under routes or quick stop routes, or smoke routes and making somebody miss and breaking two or three tackles and what seemingly could be a five or six-yard gain has been turning into big plays for him.”
Studying Johnston’s dominance against KU, safety Kobe Savage also concluded that yards-after-catch is where much of the TCU receiver’s success comes from. The film revealed what routes he likes and the tendencies he possesses when Johnston catches the ball.
“If he catches a curl (route), or maybe a bubble (screen) where he has his back turned to the defender, he has a good way of feeling them out and rolling right off of them,” Savage said.
According to the Big 12’s extended individual statistics, Johnston ranks fifth in the conference with 34 receptions overall, six per game. The totals accompany his second-best yards receiving status at 83.33 average. The lone receiver ahead of Johnston is Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson, who tallied 100-yards against the Wildcats but couldn’t score a touchdown.
Limiting red zone opportunities keeps K-State’s secondary out of jump ball scenarios, but TCU’s explosive offense is difficult to stop. With dual-threat quarterback Max Duggan leading the offense, the Horned Frogs have had no problem marching down the field, and rank third in offensive scoring.
Johnston only managed two catches for five yards against K-State last season, the Wildcat defense now will try to implement that stringent defense for a second straight season.