With apologies to Jeff Lebowski, Dinkytown, not Los Angeles, is home of The Dude. Or at least a dude, according to Kirk Ciarrocca.
Impressed with the continued development of Tyler Johnson, Ciarrocca, the Gophers offensive coordinator, revealed that the sophomore wide receiver has reached “dude” status after his play Saturday in a loss to Michigan State, when he caught three fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
“He was a dude on Saturday against Michigan State. I’m fortunate; I’ve been around some dudes who’ve played wide receiver,” Ciarrocca said during his weekly media session on Wednesday, earning chuckles from some reporters familiar with “The Big Lebowski,” a 1998 Joel and Ethan Coen film that features a main character, bathrobe-wearing, White Russian-drinking slacker Jeff Lebowski, who is nicknamed “The Dude.”
To Ciarrocca, earning dude status means, “you’ve gotta dominate that defensive back every single week, every single play. That’s what dudes do. They dominate people, they force you to alter your coverages to stop you. One guy cannot stop you.”
That certainly was the case Saturday, when Johnson caught eight passes for 106 yards, including touchdown receptions of 28, 17 and 9 yards from Demry Croft in the fourth quarter as the Gophers rallied from down 23-6 to the final score of 30-27.
“I felt like he was good and been our best guy, but I never felt like he was a dude yet,” Ciarrocca said. “He’s our best and he’s getting better, but that was a dominant performance on Saturday by him. It didn’t matter who was covering him, he dominated them. It didn’t matter what type of look they tried to play him — whether it’s inside press, outside press, [playing him] off — he had answers.”
Johnson’s stats and Big Ten rankings show a receiver abiding by that dude status. The former Minneapolis North standout ranks second in the conference in yards per catch (18.9), and his six TD catches are tied for second.
Among the other dudes that Ciarrocca says he has coached are Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, the No. 5 overall draft pick by the Tennessee Titans last spring, and Rutgers’ Kenny Britt, who has caught 317 passes for 5,002 yards and 31 TDs in a nine-year NFL career. For Johnson to keep his dude status, he’ll need to stay consistent and continue impressing receivers coach Matt Simon.
“What Matt’s trying to get across to him is that dudes are dudes every day, all the time, every game,” Ciarrocca said. “There’s no breaks from it.”