Nate Johnson, Wolverine

Nate Johnson, Wolverine

December 12, 2015

Thompson’s Station (TN) Independence WR Nate Johnson

Thompson’s Station (TN) Independence wide receiver Nate Johnson committed to Michigan on Saturday during an official visit to Ann Arbor. He was offered just a few days ago, but the former Purdue commit chose the Wolverines over offers from Miami, Northwestern, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, among others.

Johnson is 5’11”, 175 lbs. and claims a 4.47 forty. He also claims a 4.05 shuttle. As a senior in 2015, he caught 87 passes for 1,713 yards and 27 touchdowns. When he was a junior in 2014, he caught 62 passes for 1,290 yards and 17 scores.

ESPN: 3-star, 72 grade, #170 WR
Rivals: 3-star, #98 WR
Scout: Unranked
247 Sports: 4-star, 92 grade, #40 WR, #241 overall

Hit the jump for the rest of the commitment post.

Johnson committed to Purdue in June when he did not have a lot of offers. Once his senior season ended and film went out, he started garnering more offers and decommitted in late November. It doesn’t hurt that he helped Independence win a state championship, and his quarterback, Andrew Bunch, has a few scholarship offers, including one from Eastern Michigan. Michigan had been in contact with Johnson for a few weeks before the offer came, but when it did, things moved quickly. He immediately set up an official visit and accepted the offer to wear the Maize and Blue.

It’s easy to see why more Power Five teams came calling. Johnson lines up in the slot, on the outside, and in the backfield. He runs a variety of routes from those spots and does a good job of getting open. He gets separation off the line of scrimmage by varying his releases, and he finds soft spots in zone coverage. He tracks the ball well in the air, and he adjusts well to passes thrown high or low. He makes leaping catches, diving catches, and catches off of his shoe tops. He catches the ball away from his body, and he has good field awareness to get the ball upfield quickly. When he gets in traffic with the ball, he does a great job of fighting for extra yardage, breaking tackles, and moving his feet. I also like the way he plays the game – he runs his routes hard, is a willing blocker, and seems like a high-energy kid who plays with enthusiasm.

Johnson needs to get stronger in his upper body to fend off more physical corners. There are times where he struggles to get separation because he gets overpowered at the line of scrimmage, and he could use his hands better to create some room. He also does not have great long speed, although he has enough to be dangerous (note: each time I have watched the Hudl video below, several clips have been sped up for some reason, whether it’s a technical glitch or done purposefully). As with most high school receivers, his route running could be sharpened up, but that’s not a major concern since it is easy to fix if kids have the right mentality.

Overall, there are a lot of things to like about Johnson’s game and his commitment to Michigan. For a few years, the Wolverines were reeling in tall, slow-ish wide receivers, but Johnson is probably a slot guy, and he can make things happen with the ball in his hands. He is a more athletic version of Grant Perry and might be able to see the field early in his career. Michigan could potentially run him on some fly sweeps, throw him some bubble screens or crack screens, etc. I also like the potential he has working over the middle and finding soft spots in coverage.

Michigan is back to 21 commitments in the 2016 class after linebacker David Reese decommitted a few days ago. Johnson is the third wide receiver, joining bigger outside guys Brad Hawkins, Jr. and Ahmir Mitchell. He is also the third Johnson in the class, joining linebacker Dytarious Johnson and defensive end Ron Johnson, Jr. The last time Michigan got a commitment from a Tennessean was in 2012 when Blake Bars signed with the Wolverines out of Nashville (TN) Montgomery Bell.

TTB Rating: 76 (ratings explanation)


  1. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Dec 12, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    Pretty sudden change of direction, hard to hit, if do you hit him you better wrap him up because he has wonderful balance and doesn’t like to fall down. i like him better that Pie whatshisname and Eddie McDoom. I’d probably prefer Velus Jones for the raw speed, but there’s a bunch to like about this kid.

    As an aside, anybody watch Army/Navy? I thought that was one of the best played football games I’ve seen in a long time. Navy DBs put some of the best hits I’ve seen in years on Army Running Backs. I’m inspired ….. pity I’m so old.

    • Comments: 182
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      Dec 12, 2015 at 9:34 PM

      yeah its tough to beat playing the safety position with the freedom to play downhill much of the game vs running Os. those safeties were obviously having fun flying into the alleys and laid some nice licks.

      speaking of hard hitting safeties, florida will roll out some aggressive safeties vs michigan in the bowl game. those dudes can run and love to drop the hammer. florida prob has one of the hardest hittest and quickest back 7s in the country. theyre fun to watch and though the aggressive play sometimes backfires, theyre typically solid vs the run (not counting derrick henry). hopefully michigan brings it for 4 quarters bc those boys play hard – theyre one of those Ds where the popping on film and the crack of the pads jumps out at you

  2. Comments: 118
    Joined: 10/22/2015
    Dec 12, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    LOL! I actually like the QB better after watching the video. Guess I probably shouldn’t quit my day job…

    • Comments: 1357
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Dec 13, 2015 at 6:33 AM

      He’s a nice QB. He’ll play somewhere, barring something bonehead.

  3. Comments: 142
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Dec 12, 2015 at 11:39 PM

    I like him, he is going to contribute which is more than you can say for half the roster today.
    Good pick up!

  4. Comments: 111
    Joined: 10/14/2015
    Dec 13, 2015 at 3:15 AM

    I hope his impact to the Michigan team match or exceed the last WR commitment we snatched from Purdue…

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