TAMPA — Don’t anticipate Jesuit receivers Bryce Walker (pictured) and Travis Johnson lining up side by side in a twins formation any time this millennium. Strategically and semantically, it doesn’t work.
Twins? These guys couldn’t be more diametrically opposite if their last names were Gruden and Dungy. Size, speed — no matches there. Age? Johnson’s a sophomore, Walker a junior.
And in a typical game, their style of routes will differ as greatly as their style of hair (Johnson’s the one with the Afro). But insert these two contrasting cogs on opposite sides of quarterback Patton Chillura, and the offense can be nearly unstoppable at times.
Just consider their statistics, the pair’s only noticeable similarity. Walker, the cat-quick, diminutive one, has a team-best 310 receiving yards. Johnson, the rangy physical presence, has 308. Both have three touchdowns.
“They’re my ‘Thunder and Lightning’ package,” Tigers passing game coordinator Ty Alvarez said.
“With Bryce we can really stretch the defense vertically and underneath because he’s so quick and cuts so well. And Travis is so physical. He can get vertical on you and can work the intermediate zones on you as well.”
Those styles stood in glorious, glaring contrast in Friday’s 29-28 upset of third-ranked Robinson, which gave Jesuit (5-0) sole command of the Class 2A, District 5 race. The two teamed for nine catches for 205 yards and one touchdown.
On the touchdown, an 80-yarder, Johnson got behind a defender and made a one-handed snag of a Chillura pass near the Knights sideline on the third quarter’s final play. Minutes later, on Jesuit’s winning drive, he caught a 46-yarder to set up the decisive touchdown.
Before that, Walker found himself isolated in space, catching Chillura’s short play-action passes and scurrying for yards after the catch.
“I think there’s no way any cornerback in this county can cover (Johnson) one-on-one all game,” said Walker, also the Tigers’ top receiver in 2009. “And the pressure of safeties having to (respect) him will just open up my game.”
Tigers offensive coordinator Chris Taylor agrees. Cheat a safety over to Johnson’s side, and Walker is suddenly freed up. Put added emphasis on the slot side, and you risk covering Johnson one on one.
“It’s going to be a pick-your-poison thing,” Taylor said, “because rather than put Travis and Bryce on the same side, having them opposite like that, you can’t cheat one way or the other.”
Size: 5-9, 175
Speed: Several Tigers coaches say Walker has run the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds
Stats: 21 catches, 310 yards, three touchdowns
Did you know? Walker’s stature usually elicits a stream of trash talk from unsuspecting foes at the line of scrimmage. “I get a lot of laughs like, ‘This is who I’ve got to cover?’ And they yell back at their coaches saying, ‘This is what I’ve got?’ ” he said. “It’s pretty fun, though. I enjoy it because, you know, you’re shorter than everyone else on the field and expectations may be lower, but I just use that to my advantage.”
Size: 6-4, 216
Speed: Not sure. Johnson, a two-sport standout, was playing basketball when the Tigers tested for speed. Walker says he has beaten Johnson during races in practice.
Stats: 16 catches, 308 yards, three touchdowns
Did you know? Johnson was so jubilant over his performance Friday against Robinson, he took his mom out to dinner (at Tijuana Flats) that night, then to breakfast (at Denny’s) the following morning.