On Friday, Penn State junior tight end Theo Johnson announced on Twitter that he has declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, but will be with his team at the Peach Bowl. Since the end of the season, James Franklin has now lost his defensive coordinator, his most talented defensive player, and now his second-leading receiver. Johnson will not return in 2024, but he will play against Ole Miss on one of the final days of 2023.
Johnson will follow teammate Chop Robinson into the draft, but Robinson, unlike Johnson, has opted out of the Peach Bowl. Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss don’t expect to have any opt-outs. Drew Allar didn’t exactly have a bounty of talented pass-catchers this season on the 90th-ranked passing offense, so he desperately needed his talented tight end against the Rebels.
The 6-foot-6 Johnson caught 32 passes for 325 yards and six touchdowns for the Nittany Lions in 2023. He finished second on the team in receptions and yards to KeAndre Lambert-Smith and second in receiving touchdowns to fellow tight end Tyler Warren who had seven. Warren will take on an even bigger role in the offense next year under new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki.
There is some slight ambiguity in Johnson’s message. Multiple outlets have reported that Johnson will play in the Peach Bowl, but “I can’t wait to be with my Penn State Football family one last time when we compete at the Peach Bowl” sounds like a guarantee that he will be in Atlanta, but not an assurance that he will suit up.
Regardless, this departure makes pass-catcher, and specifically wide receiver, an even bigger priority in the transfer portal this offseason. James Franklin desperately needs to add offensive weapons around Drew Allar, in what could be the final season before Allar is posting a message to Penn State fans just like this one.