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BATTLE OF I-75

UT players to watch: Johnson starting to deliver on promise

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    Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson, foreground, returns the kickoff during the first half of a September game against Miami.

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    Toledo lineman Olasunkanmi Adeniyi celebrates after intercepting a pass.

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    Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside throws a pass during the first half of a September game against Miami.

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    Toledo's Trevon Mathis intercepts a pass intended for Northern Illinois' Christian Blake.

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When University of Toledo sophomore wide receiver Diontae Johnson gets the ball, it generally means good things for the Rockets. With electrifying playmaking ability, Johnson is a threat to score any time he touches the ball.

“He’s certainly a threat with the physical ability and just the talent of that young man,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “There isn’t a ceiling on that. What I have been impressed with is the attention to detail and the want to get better each and every day, and each and every week. His play has been very consistent.”

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With 55 catches for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns, Johnson has emerged as one of the top receivers in the Mid-American Conference. His 100.3 receiving yards per game rank second in the MAC behind Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson (104.8 yards per game).

In the last three games, Johnson has been dominant with 100-yard receiving nights in each game. He torched Ball State for 170 yards and two touchdowns, followed that up with 10 catches for 166 yards in a win against Northern Illinois, then added nine catches for 144 yards and a score in a loss at Ohio.

Johnson is beginning to deliver on the potential that he possesses, but Candle says he still has room to grow, as most young players do.

“He is a young player and is still developing,” Candle said. “He still makes a lot of mistakes, which is pretty common with a player at his stage of development. He has a lot to improve on still, but I think you are starting to see flashes of the extreme talent, and a guy that when he has the football in his hands is a force to be reckoned with. I think we have to continue to find a way to get him the ball in space and allow him to do what he does with it.”

Ever since senior receiver Cody Thompson went down, Johnson has become the go-to target for quarterback Logan Woodside. Johnson has learned from Thompson, who is his roommate.

“That’s the sign of having a good program, I think, is when you have veteran players and senior players that have been successful and they have been through it and they have done it the right way,” Candle said. “Then here are some younger guys that can take a look at that picture and hopefully put that same plan to work.”

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Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside throws a pass during the first half of a September game against Miami.

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Logan Woodside

The numbers this season for senior quarterback Logan Woodside haven’t been as good as his record-breaking performance last season, but Woodside is still ranked the top passer in the MAC and was recently named a Heisman Contender by the Heisman Trophy Trust. Woodside, who recently passed Bruce Gradkowski to become the all-time leading passer in UT history, has 2,919 yards this season with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has thrown for at least 250 yards in each of his past four games.

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Toledo lineman Olasunkanmi Adeniyi celebrates after intercepting a pass.

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Olasunkanmi Adeniyi

Junior defensive end Olasunkanmi Adeniyi has been a force on the edge for Toledo all season and has turned into a dominant performer lately. Adeniyi leads Toledo in sacks with 5.5 sacks, 4.5 of which came in his past four games, including a two-sack performance in a win at Ball State. He also has 13.5 tackles for loss this season, including 3.0 in the Ball State game.

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Toledo's Trevon Mathis intercepts a pass intended for Northern Illinois' Christian Blake.

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Trevon Mathis

Against Northern Illinois, senior cornerback Trevon Mathis came up with two interceptions, including one that helped secure the win for the Rockets. Those are the only two interceptions of the season for Mathis, but he has been good in coverage all season and has 24 tackles. As Toledo’s top cover corner and a senior captain, Mathis leads a defensive unit that is third in MAC play with 202.5 passing yards allowed per game.

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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