Hoosier WR’s: Johns a perfectionist

Kevin Johns didn’t get the nod from Rivals.com as the best wide receivers coach in the Big Ten because his guys were the best at catching jump balls or at scorching their defenders on go routes.

In his four years coaching the wideouts at Northwestern, he never had the league’s tallest or fastest athletes, but Johns made the most out of a cerebral group and coached two receivers with ordinary athleticism by Big Ten standards to all-conference honors. Jeremy Ebert was a first-team pick this year and Zeke Markshausen was a second-teamer a season ago.

‘That’s what made us unique at Northwestern,” Johns said. “We paid attention to all of those little details. We thought that made us different. I think that’s what we need to do here. How are we going to separate ourselves? To me, those little things are gonna make a big difference.”

Johns’ charges have noticed that failure to do those things right will have consequences.

“You just focus on the little things so much,” senior wide receiver Damarlo Belcher said. “The little things really matter. Your alignment. … He focuses a lot on the little things. Those things really help a lot. He’s just real smart. He’s a genius. He’s teaching us a lot of things that we didn’t know last year.”

It’s a talented group of receivers Johns inherits, but it is a little bit green. Belcher led the Big Ten in receptions last year with 78 for 832 yards and four touchdowns and rising sophomore Duwyce Wilson had 32 catches for 488 yards and three scores. Terrance Turner graduated, however, and Tandon Doss left a year early for the NFL, so the rest of the wideout corps had a combined nine receptions. Johns said he’s enjoying the opportunity to mold the younger players as well as Belcher and Wilson.

“There are guys who maybe have a little taste of it but not enough that they have everything perfected,” Johns said. “So I’ve been having a blast this spring just teaching Kofi Hughes how to play wide receiver. People forget, he was a quarterback. He’s played wide receiver for eight months of his whole life. By no means is he a finished product. There are a lot of guys like that, and that to me is exciting, and that’s where I’m looking to build is building the young guys up, and that’s where our depth will come from and we’ll be able to continue this really high level of play in the pass game for years to come.”

AUDIO: Damarlo Belcher

AUDIO: Duwyce Wilson

AUDIO: Kevin Johns

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson


  1. I’m glad Belcher is focusing on the little things. For example, catching the game winning touchdown against a ranked team.

  2. @I like soup!, I couldn’t agree with you more!

    Nothing like dropping a wide open open easy catch against in the end-zone at the end of the game, right?! Man, that Iowa game still burns me… I sat in the stands dumbfounded of how he could have dropped that ball…

    He wanted to be like James Hardy, well…unlike Belcher, Hardy always caught the ball! Having said that, I’m glad he’s still a part of the team and hopefully he’ll do some great things this year that will make us completely forget about that Iowa game last year.

  3. If that pass had been so easy to catch IU would have been 6-6 and KW would still be in Norman.

  4. Belcher drops a pass and (it contributed to) Lynch is gone. Underclassmen miss late game layups and free throws and some (still just a few) call for Crean’s head. I am so glad my livelihood doesn’t rest of the performance of 19 and 20-year-olds in (relatively speaking) pressure situations.

  5. Belcher did indeed drop that pass that could’ve been the game winning touchdown. I remember that. I also remember the dozens of times he hauled in 3rd down passes that moved the chains and kept drives alive, drives that at least gave the Hoosiers a chance to hang around in games.

    So, yeah, it does bug me Belcher is judged on one drop.

  6. What whinners! Give me 3 Belcher’s and a QB, and I will beat you 9 out of 10 times. He is a great player. Probably the best on this year’s team. Watch next year’s All Big 10 announcements and NFL draft to verify my prediction.

  7. Demarlo Belcher is going to be big time this fall. Along with our great TEs, Belcher is a big, tall, strong kid that’s going to be a great safety valve for our new starting QB.

    Hopefully our new signal caller can keep turnovers down, that’ll be one of the biggest keys to our season.

  8. Aegis, I HOPE you are right and that Belcher will have a stand out year. But, I THINK you may be wrong. The reason for my skepticism is that with a struggling O-Line, essentially no running attack, coupled with increasingly stronger opponent pass rushes and a new IU QB, it will be tough going out there for anyone. While I am confident that our new coaching staff can make us more competitive over time, not expecting much this year.

  9. I Think This “Coach” Does Exactly What His Name Implies Coaches Them Up.Through “Teaching” EXCELLENT 2Read & More Importantly It Appears He Is A Great`Hire ! Go I.U. Football.We Can Become Good 2 Perhaps “VERY`GOOD~AGAIN” Yes I Remember”Ohio States DARKEST DAY @the HORSESHOE” Lets Give some Time But….Go I.U. !

  10. Don’t forget…Belcher dropped TWO touchdown passes against Iowa last season. The one in the first half was an easier grab than the one everybody remembers.

  11. Wilson says that IU talent is comparable to OU. I guess I missed OU finishing last in the Big 12 the last several years. Either Wilson is lying or he is just a terrible judge of talent. Such a comment is a slap in the face of Bob Stoops and all the coaches on his staff, because there isn’t a kid on the IU team that would sniff the field at OU. Can’t wait to Wilson gets a dose of reality when his ‘Comparable talent to OU’ IU team gets beat like and old army mule.

  12. All he needs to do is get IU to play some respectful D and they have a shot at a bowl. And as iufan23 said, limit turnovers/mistakes by Young QB. And make some plays down field. And get in to the secondary with the run. And win the field position battle.
    Seriously, this team does have some potential to have some success. Hopefully coach Wilson can implement enough winning mojo to make it happen.

  13. If he can just teach the defenders to tackle that will put us way ahead of where we have been.

  14. Indeed, KW and staff will create the difference to add one more win this season. The D will be holding their own this year. QB will be the intangible. I am optimistic about the OL because Frey and Smith have worked together up north making an offense work. It will be fun to watch.

  15. IUkiddngme- just a terrible post.

    IU dors have quite a bit of talent at the skill positions. It just needs a coaching staff to harness it appropriately. Wilson is not lying when he says IU has comparable talent to OU.

  16. Coaching up the little things adds up to big things, like a winning season and going to a bowl game. IU has upgraded its coaching staff and the new staff is raising the bar for the players. Let’s hope these players respond.

    As for Belcher’s drops against Iowa, yes they were extremely painful. But we’ve all seen All-Pro NFL receivers do the same thing countless numbers of times. Anyone remember Earnest Biner (Cleveland) fumbling on the one yard line and costing the Browns a trip to the Super Bowl? It happens to the best of them. I’m guessing Belcher will be all the more determined to redeem himself next season. And in the long run, IU losing that game to Iowa may have been the best thing that happened to IU’s football program. IU has a much improved coaching staff.

  17. Earnest Biner…The Drive…great memories, I was living in Denver. Just think, if Irsay had moved the Colts a couple years earlier Elway would have been a Colt. He just refused to go to Baltimore.

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