Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Cornelius Johnson. Johnson caught 2 passes for 47 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s averaging 24.5 yards per catch, and that’s mostly against the starters. (Daylen Baldwin is averaging 25.8, but that has largely come late in blowout wins.) But through five games, he has just 10 receptions overall, or 2 per game, in other words. A receiver of his caliber should be getting more touches.
Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . A.J. Henning. Henning is averaging 50.0 yards per carry and 12.0 yards per reception. Those are pretty good numbers, but he only has 5 offensive touches so far this season (2 rushes, 3 receptions). As the season goes along, I would like to see him get the ball more, particularly in the passing game.
Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . nobody.
Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Jordan Whittley. This has nothing to do with the play on the field, but as long as it doesn’t put the game at risk, I would like to see Whittley get more playing time so he can work himself into shape. Listed at 348 pounds, he could be a key component at nose tackle down the stretch, but his snaps are limited right now due to conditioning.
Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . nobody.
Play of the game . . . Cade McNamara’s 87-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius Johnson. Not only did the pass go into the record books as Michigan’s third-longest pass in school history, but it was just exciting to see Michigan take a deep shot and hit it. It was one of those plays where you could hear and feel the excitement in the stadium as Johnson ran a stop-and-go on the right sideline, got himself about five yards of separation, and then pulled away from an overmatched NIU cornerback.
Player of the game . . . Andrew Vastardis. It’s not often that I go with a lineman for player of the game, but I thought Vastardis played very well. Granted, the opposition wasn’t stellar, but that could be said at pretty much every position for Michigan. Playing center, Vastardis and the offensive line didn’t get confused by much of anything Northern Illinois threw at them, and he made some very nice blocks in the running game. Michigan ran 48 times for 373 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and 8 touchdowns, the second-most rushing touchdowns in school history.
This is the expectation. It’s nice to see that Michigan met expectations for once. This kind of beatdown is what Michigan should do on a pretty regular basis against overmatched MAC-level opponents. We’ve seen losses (2008 Toledo), close wins (2014 Akron), and other mild scares against the MAC, as well as a bunch of dominant victories. But Michigan should never really be within arm’s reach of a MAC opponent. The line should be too big, the skill guys should be too fast, and the coaches should be too smart.
Look below for my bold, sure-to-be-100%-correct predictions for 2021.
LEADING RUSHER It doesn’t get any bolder than picking the guy who has finished #1 or #2 in rushing the past two seasons (and the #1 guy from 2019 is playing for UCLA now). Yes, you guessed it. I’m picking Hassan Haskins. Haskins was a ho-hum recruit who has become a very dependable runner, if lacking great breakaway speed. Last season he took a stranglehold on the job, running 61 times for 375 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Blake Corum should also get a good chunk of carries, but in crunch time, I expect Haskins to be the primary back. Prediction: Hassan Haskins, 900 yards
Hit the jump for the rest of the prognostications.
Name: Cornelius Johnson Height: 6’3″ Weight: 211 lbs. High school: Greenwich (CT) Brunswick Position: Wide receiver Class: Junior Jersey number: #6 Last year: I ranked Johnson #27 and said he would be a starting wide receiver (LINK). He started three games and made 16 catches for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns. TTB Rating: 87
Johnson was in a unique situation at Michigan last year. A program somewhat known for pumping out NFL-prototype receivers suddenly found itself with a bunch of slotty receivers and one 6’3″ guy: Johnson. The 6’4″ Nico Collins opted out of the 2020 season, and that left Johnson to tower over the 6’0″ or shorter wide receiver room. Partly because of that, I expected Johnson to take over a starting role to give Michigan a bigger presence on the field.
Johnson didn’t do a ton the first couple weeks, exploded for 9 catches for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns against Indiana and Rutgers, and then didn’t do much again when the Wolverines didn’t have a healthy QB against Penn State. Apparently he’s only good against teams wearing red, which bodes well for the Ohio State game this season.
I think Johnson is headed for a breakout season in 2021. He has some confidence from 2020 and has now had an extra year to build his relationship with Cade McNamara. Johnson is a good route runner with solid speed and that NFL-prototype size. Michigan doesn’t produce superstar-level stats on offense, but Johnson should perform well enough for people around the league to recognize.