KU's Wilson Pulling No Punches

u's Jonathan Wilson (left) and Jeff Spikes

Johnathan Wilson is candid. He's blunt. He doesn't hesitate when asked about last season, when Kansas lost its last seven games and the Jayhawk receiver admittedly underachieved after great expectations following his sophomore season in 2008.

"As a team, nobody was happy with it, and from my personal performance, I definitely wasn't happy with it," Johnathan Wilson said. "I feel like I left too many balls on the ground.

"Last year was a disappointment for me," Wilson added. "I had a lot of expectations and I felt like I didn't live up to it. I feel like I have a lot to prove this year, not just with my teammates, but with myself in general. That seven-game losing streak really stuck in my mind. It's still in my mind, so I'm not going to forget that."

After catching 43 passes for 573 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore, Wilson had just 35 receptions for 449 yards with zero touchdowns last year. He's certainly hoping for better results in 2010 as KU's most seasoned receiver. Now a senior, Wilson knows he'll have to step up with the loss of Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe — the two most productive receivers in KU history.

"We don't have Kerry, we don't have Dez anymore," Wilson said. "Those were two guys we depended on a lot. I got to come up with some big plays for the team."

Wilson said he learned a great deal from both Meier and Briscoe.

"Kerry, I learned to just work hard," Wilson said. "His work mindset is amazing. That's something I really learned from and use to this day. From Dez, (I learned) to seize the moment. Every time we needed a big play, he came over. That's what I need to do. I need to mix those two philosophies somehow and put it into my own."

Wilson has worked hard this offseason to improve his skills.

"The thing I tried to focus on was separation, just getting away from the defense," Wilson said. "Catching the ball is also important, but if you get separation from the defense, the quarterback will find you."

Wilson has certainly impressed first-year KU coach Turner Gill in practice and also his teammates.

"John Wilson has done some great things," Gill said. "He isn't the fastest guy, but he has run some great routes. He has done an excellent job at catching the football."

Junior receiver Daymond Patterson agrees.

"He had a real good summer," Patterson said at KU Media Day. "I could really see him working hard throughout the whole summer and it's starting to show. During two-a-days, he's made a lot of plays out there."

The Jayhawks have a lot of receivers who can make plays. Gill singled out Wilson, Patterson, sophomores Bradley McDougald and D.J. Beshears, plus redshirt freshmen Chris Omigie, Eric McGriff and Christian Mathews at KU Media Day.

"I feel like we're one of the strong points of the team," Wilson said about the receiving corps. "We have a lot of talent, a lot of ability. It's gong to be exciting."

Wilson is also excited to be a senior and improve as a leader.

"I definitely feel like I'm more of a leadership role now and I'm going to have to open my mouth a little bit more," Wilson said. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm looking forward to being a leader for this team."

While he's trying to become a more vocal leader, Wilson is more comfortable leading by example.

"I'm kind of a quiet leader," he said. "I'm not a (rah-rah) holler at you guy, but we do have guys like that. Every leader is different. I kind of want to lead by example,  just lead guys, just push guys. I don't need to yell at them."

Of course, KU's ultimate leader is Gill. Wilson is enjoying playing for Gill and feeling better about himself after last year's disappointing season.

"It's been a great confidence boost," Wilson said. "I think that's something I had a problem with last year. I dropped a couple of ball and my confidence went down. I didn't believe in myself anymore. But with coach Gill and myself, I just had to get my confidence back. I think that's what I did this spring and this fall."

Now, he's aiming for a banner season in his senior swan song.

"I want to lead the team in receiving and make the All-Big 12 team," Wilson said.

And also help KU win a lot of  games. That would certainly cap off a great ride at Kansas for this Houston, Texas, native.

"It's been a great experience," said Wilson, an American Studies major. "At first, I (said) I don't know about Kansas, but it's definitely a second home to me now. I'm always gong to come back here. I'm excited just to be a part of Kansas football."

After this season, Wilson hopes to continue playing the game he loves.

"Hopefully, I'll have the chance to play at the next level," he said. "Anywhere — Canada, the NFL. It doesn't matter. I just want to continue playing football. I'm not looking forward to getting out there and getting a job right now. "

He knows a big year at KU this season will help land him a a pro football career.

"Hopefully," Wilson said, "I can show my talent and get that opportunity." 

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