Name: Will Johnson
Weight: 202 lbs.
High school: Grosse Pointe (MI) South
Jersey number: #2
Last year: I ranked Johnson #34 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He started five games and made 27 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups.
TTB Rating: 91
Will Johnson was Michigan’s most anticipated freshman enrollee since way back in . . . oh, 2021, when J.J. McCarthy first arrived on campus.
Okay, that might not be the best angle.
But still, Michigan fans – and coaches – were really looking forward to getting the 5-star corner on campus. The son of a former Michigan defensive back, Johnson had the size, athleticism, and local upbringing that made him a legend before he ever ran out to touch the banner. It took him some time to get that on-field performance on par with the hype, but he made it happen in the Big Ten Championship game.
The build-up to that game really started with his first career start, which took place against Rutgers in early November, peaking with his first career interception, which he returned 29 yards. It culminated with him following around Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones, who had a decent game, but Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O’Connell also threw 2 picks to Johnson. Johnson’s reactions and physicality really seemed to shine in that game and perhaps propelled expectations for him in 2023 to All-American levels.
I’m not so sure that Johnson will be an All-American in 2023, considering sometimes it takes ridiculous – and impossible to predict – interception numbers to earn that honor. Johnson could have an excellent season, but some kid from North Carolina State could make 10 interceptions and totally steal his thunder. Johnson will certainly be Michigan’s #1 corner and he should be one of the best in the Big Ten, if not the best.
It’s not only his talent that puts him at #2 in the countdown, though. There’s also the uncomfortable fact that Michigan does not have much proven depth at the position. The coaching staff brought in UMass transfer Josh Wallace, but there was also a time in the spring where Jim Harbaugh anointed Amorion Walker a starter . . . before Walker looked kinda bad in the spring game. While Michigan has quality backups at almost every single position, the one spot on defense that gets shaky immediately is cornerback, so the hope is that Johnson stays healthy throughout the year.
Prediction: Starting cornerback; 50 tackles, 4 interceptions
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