Cornelius Johnson, Wolverine

Cornelius Johnson, Wolverine


December 20, 2018

Greenwich (CT) Brunswick WR Cornelius Johnson (image via Brunswick Athletics)

Greenwich (CT) Brunswick wide receiver Cornelius Johnson committed to Michigan on Wednesday morning, sending in his National Letter of Intent to the Wolverines instead of Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, or a bunch of other schools.

Johnson is listed at 6’3″ and 197 lbs. He claims a 4.58 forty, a 4.13 shuttle, and 36.7″ vertical.

RANKINGS
ESPN: 4-star, 81 grade, #36 WR, #281 overall
Rivals: 3-star, 5.7 grade, #69 WR
247 Sports: 4-star, 92 grade, #25 WR, #185 overall

Hit the jump for more on Johnson’s commitment.

Johnson was offered by Michigan in March of 2018, and he visited unofficially in April. For much of his recruitment, he was thought to be a lean toward Notre Dame, Penn State, or Stanford, but Michigan was always in his top group. In particular, Notre Dame seemed to be his likely destination for a long time. If not for the official visit he took to Michigan in mid-December, Johnson probably would have gone elsewhere. This might be a case where Michigan got the benefit of having the last word before Signing Day.

There are a lot of things to like about Johnson. He has good size at 6’3″ and roughly 200 lbs., and he will certainly add some weight to that frame over the next few years. He also has an excellent catch radius, not only because of that size, but because of his athleticism. His body control stands out, both with his leaping and his hands; at about 3:15 of the highlight video below, you can see him making an excellent catch by dragging one foot in-bounds while completely horizontal across the sideline. I also like Johnson’s body lean, which helps with his acceleration and his ability to be physical with defenders. He uses his hands well in subtle ways to shake defenders, and I like his field awareness, with which he tracks zone defenders, finds open grass, and shields the ball from defenders. Furthermore, he’s a strong runner after the catch.

Johnson has a couple things to work on, including improving his size and strength. I would like to see him become a little less demonstrative after plays, which might lead to a taunting/unsportsmanlike penalty here or there.

Overall, though, Johnson is a very good prospect. His speed is good, not great, but his ball skills and coverage awareness should make up for some of those pure speed shortcomings. He reminds me of former Michigan wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who became a 7th round NFL draft pick after becoming a physical, jump ball extraordinaire for the Wolverines.

Michigan now has 27 commitments in the 2019 class, including five wide receivers: Johnson, Giles Jackson, George Johnson III, Quintel Kent, and Mike Sainristil. The Wolverines have actually signed three players from the state of Connecticut in this class, where Johnson joins offensive tackle Jack Stewart and linebacker Charles Thomas.

TTB Rating: 82 (ratings explanation)

25 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 213
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Extrajuice
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:21 AM

    Whoa, I think that’s really low. I know Thunder REALLY doesn’t like the eccentric/showboat kids (and I don’t either) but if that’s what’s lowering his ranking I think you gotta take another look. He’s confident, yes, but he’s also a student of the game. That’s why he has the forward lean, field awareness etc. This isn’t a kid craving attention like some kids from southern schools who aren’t smart enough to know better. This kid is extremely intelligent (1480 SAT) and coachable. I’m sure it’ll take 1 time for a coach to remind him of the UM way. He’ll be fine.

    As for his rankings, I’d say he’s closer to 90. I can see him transition into this team quickly. He doesn’t look overly fast but his long strides are deceiving. He runs away from everyone and he catches with his hands. He’s just a quality football player who seems like a natural fit at UM. Super excited about his ability and I think he’s a top 4 get in this group.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2951
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 20, 2018 at 11:28 AM

      No, the limitations of the offense are what’s going to keep virtually any receiver’s rankings lower than they should be. Michigan has a very good wide receiver named Donovan Peoples-Jones who was healthy all year with a pretty dang good quarterback, and he has 39 catches for 541 yards and 7 touchdowns. You’re not going to be an All-American and you’ll struggle to be one of the top receivers in the Big Ten (statistically) wearing a Michigan uniform unless something changes. It’s the same reason DPJ was an 89/92 during the 2017 cycle, even though he was a 5-star wideout.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4640
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Dec 20, 2018 at 12:28 PM

        DPJ was all-conference as a true sophomore. He’s already somewhere in the 90s.

        “90-99 = Outstanding starter in Big Ten; likely All-Big Ten and All-American; high likelihood of NFL draft potential (Ex: Brandon Graham, Taylor Lewan)”

        The only part of that he hasn’t already achieved is “all american”.

        I understand your position on this Thunder but you should really re-consider. I think most people are able to look beyond volume stats.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 2951
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Dec 20, 2018 at 12:54 PM

          If I were going to change anything, I would probably make the 90-99 scale more specific in calling for players to be First Team all-conference, which is what I intended with that. DPJ was Third Team/Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. To reach First Team status, DPJ would basically have to double those receptions and his yardage total. That’s how far away he is from being in the 90s.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 213
            Joined: 12/19/2015
            Extrajuice
            Dec 20, 2018 at 5:03 PM

            Maybe I’m caught up in the rating system but I think he’s a solid pro prospect from rounds 1st – 4th, than “some NFL draft potential”, which seems to me closer to 6th-7th Rd. Is the rating system if they peak or just how you expect them to perform? I think there’s a difference.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 4640
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Dec 20, 2018 at 6:06 PM

              That’s a good question. I always assumed it meant peak since it includes draft considerations.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 2951
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Dec 21, 2018 at 1:24 PM

              The rating system is where I see them peaking at Michigan. If I think a kid is going to transfer after being a backup for two years, I’m going to give him a low rating, even if I think he could go somewhere else and be a starter.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 4640
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Dec 20, 2018 at 6:05 PM

            It’s your ranking system, so you can change if you like of course. Probably in summer.

            FWIW. My thoughts are that there are two things that are kind of funky about it relative to what I think you’re trying to get at based on player examples. 1 the NFL description is probably a bit off relative to conference ranking. 2 some of the terms like “average starter” may be Michigan-oriented, rather than true to the conference at large.

            100 = “Best prospect in the country at his position”;

            This kinda translates to a 1st rounder but depends too much on position. All conference honors should be a unanimous 1st teamer and probably for multiple years. Michigan reference: legend.

            If you’re going to limit this to Woodson and Long-level and keep all-americans like Bush and Lewis in the 90s, you might want to elevate the criteria to Heisman candidate and/or top 10 pick.

            90-99 = Outstanding starter in Big Ten

            All conference consensus 1st team / multiple year honors. Typically this means top 2-3 Rounds, but I think your intended bar may be even higher (1st round candidate) if your examples are Graham and Lewan. Excellent players, even by Michigan standards.

            80-89 = Very good starter in Big Ten

            This is probably some mix of mostly 1st and 2nd team all conference honors. These type of guys are often going in middle rounds 3-6. That’s a lot more than “some” NFL potential, they end up being draft locks. Very good players by Michigan standards.

            Mike Martin, Jonas Mouton

            70-79 = Solid starter in Big Ten;

            3rd team / honorable mention. Fringe NFL prospect. Combine invitee. Michigan fans politely appreciate his production but think he can be replaced. (e.g., Minor, Roh)

            There’s quite a bit of parsing to be had between a solid (above average) starter and very good. Consider that even guys like Bushell-Beatty and Ben Braden got all-conference honors. That indicates they performed at well above average (Top 25 or so out of at least 70 big ten starters) level. But not many Michigan fans with high standards would look back and call them “very good”. They’re more likely to say “that guy kind of sucked”. Minnesota standards aren’t Michigan’s.

            60-69 = Average starter in Big Ten;

            Maybe some Dubious honorable mention in last year but a “below average” starter by Michigan standards. No real NFL interest but possible camp invite or practice squad potential.

            To me, Barnum and Ortmann fit here better here than in the category below. They started and were OK but that was it.

            50-59 = Below average starter or good backup

            No NFL interest. Considered a weakness by most Michigan fans if he had to start.

            (Ex: Greg Banks, John Ferrara) I think are bad fits here as neither was a starter as far as I remember and neither was really good backup either. I think of a guy like Pat Kugler fits. Grant Perry too. Devin Gil maybe.

            40-49 = Average backup or special teamer.

            Considering what Michigan recruits, this probably means you are a bust.

            There’s some inherent inconsistency to including different criteria (college honors vs NFL projection) but you can just apply an average to a guy who might be a great college player but not much of an NFL prospect or vice versa. (i.e., Jeremy Gallon vs Trezzele Jenkins).

            Sorry for the long post JE thanks for reading it all.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1046
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Dec 20, 2018 at 10:25 PM

        Exactly right. We ran a dink-and-dunk passing offense last year, And DPJ suffered the most because of it. His numbers were good, but far from elite, and well below what the #1 WR recruit in the country should be logging. Unfortunately, I see his career on the same path as Peppers’ and Gary’s…Elite 5 star recruit and freakish athlete, but never really gives us the level of on-field production that we expected and departs after 3 years leaving everyone just a trifle disappointed.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1234
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Dec 21, 2018 at 12:18 AM

          I for one, won’t be disappointed in DPJ
          Instead, I’ll remain frustrated by the wasted talent, and surprised that skill guys still want to sign up

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 4640
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Dec 21, 2018 at 12:27 PM

          Peppers was a heisman finalist and all american.

          Gary was all-conference twice and was awarded the best DL on the team.

          DPJ was 3rd team all conference as a true sophomore. He’s on track for big things next year.

          • Thunder
            Comments: 2951
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Dec 21, 2018 at 12:32 PM

            We’ll see. Historically, Jim Harbaugh wide receivers are not extremely productive. Anquan Boldin was his most productive wideout, which was in 2013 and 2014, and he averaged 13.9 and 12.8 yards per reception with 7 and 5 touchdowns, respectively. Jehu Chesson was on a great pace during the second half of 2015, but with 3.5 other years of data on Harbaugh/Michigan, it’s not looking promising for DPJ to have a huge season.

            I would welcome it if it happened, though.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 4640
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Dec 21, 2018 at 1:51 PM

              I don’t expect him to catch 70 balls for 1200 yards but I think you’ll see an uptick in production across the board (receiving, running, returning) as the offense continues to evolve.

              I think a big takeaway from this year is that our TEs aren’t quite as good as their usage (targets) indicate. If Black, Collins, and DPJ are all healthy and this big crop of WR recruits offers another threat there’s going to be reason to see the offense tweaked.

              In line with that is the potential to open things up. Probably more likely if there’s roster stability, consistency, trust. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping Shea is back to support all that.

              But yes, we’ll see. Speculation at this point. Harbaugh’s history of limited WR production must be considered along his history of adaptation.

              The progress and talent shown at WR is probably not something he has ever had before.

              • DonAZ
                Comments: 434
                Joined: 8/12/2015
                DonAZ
                Dec 21, 2018 at 4:49 PM

                “if there’s roster stability, consistency, trust”

                First and foremost — in the OL.

                For what it’s worth, I don’t think Harbaugh is truly stuck in 80’s-ball. I doubt he’ll ever go Mike Leach air raid, but give him an OL that allows a credible running game and the QB time, and I think we’ll see things loosen up quite a bit.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4640
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Dec 21, 2018 at 6:06 PM

                  Agree. As a Bo-disciple, Harbs would rather run the ball again and again if he can. BUT he’s no dummy, a former QB, and has embraced shotgun/pistol and RPO. He wants a balanced attack like anyone else and talent at WR is something he’s acknowledging.

                  Worth remembering that although he was a 5* DPJ was a bit raw coming from PSL. Nearly doubling his receptions and getting 7 TDs were big strides forward as a receiver. Expect more improvement and production in ’19.

              • Avatar
                Comments: 18
                Joined: 11/15/2015
                brandywine
                Dec 21, 2018 at 4:52 PM

                An interesting point of reference is Clemson. This year, their top 3 receivers production is not too dissimilar to Michigan’s. In 2016 though, Mike Williams caught 98 balls for 1400 yards (in 15 games vs Michigan’s 12).

                Of course, Clemson this year is running the ball at almost 7 yards a pop this year but interesting nonetheless.

                Perhaps it goes without saying, better QB = better WR stats. The question is if JH believes Shea is good enough to let him air it out more next year. The running game certainly won’t be as good as Clemson’s to carry the team.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4640
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Dec 21, 2018 at 6:10 PM

                  Clemson threw 530 some times in 2016 and down to 430 some this year. Michigan has thrown between 300 to 330 each of the last 3 years. The relative lack of opportunities is what this debate boils down to. The question is if people can look past the system when you get to talking about all-conference honors and NFL draft stock. To me the answer is yes. Thunder (seems to) see things differently.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4640
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Dec 21, 2018 at 6:15 PM

                  Don’t sleep on the running game next year. We return 4 all conference starters. The ceiling for this unit as run blockers is higher than anything we’ve seen since 2011.

                  I expect you’ll hear a lot about how much better Chris Evans vision is, how much faster Tru Wilson looks, and Turner making the sophomore leap… all because the stability on the OL (including year 2 of Warriner, effect of Patterson legs, etc.)

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1170
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Dec 21, 2018 at 8:55 AM

        Julio Jones, sophomore year … 43 catches, 596 yards, 4 TDs. Alabama completed 48 balls to running backs, Ingram and Richardson. Marquise Maze and Colin Peek, the TE that came over from Georgia Tech and got the SI cover had 57 catches between them. Neither of those guys are of the quality of the receivers the we rolled out this year, either at TE or the other Split End/Flanker position.

        Jones had 58 catches his first year, I’m not sure you can compare his first season with DPJ as Jones had a functioning QB. Not to mention a Wide Receivers coach.

        Jones jumps to 78 catches as a junior on his way to the league. Pretty much the entire difference in Jones’ total catches shows up in the 10 point improvement in McElroys’s completion percentage.

        As demonstrated by two very high draft picks from the RBs on their roster, Alabama was significantly better at running the football both of those years than we were this year. Actually, the were better at running the football those two years than pretty much anybody else who isn’t completely dedicated to the run, any year.

        As an aside, I’m with Brent Musberger on the relative quality of McElroy’s girlfriend.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 4640
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 20, 2018 at 12:35 PM

      I love hearing about WR skills:

      -forward lean,
      -field awareness,
      -body control,
      -hand use,
      -shielding defenders,
      -intelligence,
      -coachability,

      There tends to be a lot of focus on physical attributes of WRs (for obvious reasons) but I think the technical aspects are often overlooked. It’s not QB but the learned skills and developed instincts are really important.

      Nice to see the comments here.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 7
    Joined: 1/9/2017
    pkatz
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:36 AM

    Nutmeg state well-represented in the 2019 recruiting class!

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 4640
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:15 PM

    Nice write-up. Good to appreciate that there’s a lot more to athleticism than speed. Hemingway comp is interesting and encouraging.

    I’m generally not a fan of slow WRs whose “jump ball skills” were talked up in their recruiting post – see the long list of failures from the Hoke era – but here I get the roster fit.

    The offer list seems significantly better than the rankings – any reason for that?

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 4640
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:19 PM

    5 WRs in the class* seems like too many at face. Unless there is an evolution in offensive philosophy. Two points of circumstantial evidence in favor – the reduced role of FB last year, the makeup of this WR class. Counter-evidence: Harbaugh history.

    Regardless, I’m not worried because unlike an “outside WR” most of them are the kind of athletes that can project to different roles/positions. A 6’3 WR generally doesn’t have a lot of other options (though 6’2 Brad Hawkins has moved nicely to safety and Michigan does appreciate big CBs), so Johnson’s probably the only one who is WR-or-bust.

    *I’m including George Johnson III to the 4 listed since Michigan is listing him at WR and that’s where most project him too.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 18
      Joined: 11/15/2015
      brandywine
      Dec 21, 2018 at 12:45 PM

      I see the # of slot-ish WRs signed (Johnson, Jackson, Sainristil) as Harbaugh trying to develop that position in his offense from scratch, through compeition. Recruiting one guy there isn’t effective – too much risk of flame outs or injury and by recruiting numbers and competition a quality player is likely to emerge. I’d imagine that was the recruiting pitch.

  5. Avatar
    Comments: 1234
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Dec 20, 2018 at 8:34 PM

    Are you reading all of this Thunder? Not only does your football acumen not matter, now you’re being told what your subjective rating system should look like, or “what you really meant to say was… “

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