We continue our series as we look at each potential contributor on Michigan's roster in numerical order and look at what would be a stellar, standard and subpar season in 2020.
We're on to No. 6, sophomore wide receiver Cornelius Johnson.
Cornelius Johnson sometimes feels a bit forgotten. He's obviously not No. 1 or No. 2 on the depth chart with Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell in town, and he's not as talked about as his classmates Mike Sainristil and Giles Jackson. With that said, there could be a role for him in 2020 because he's different from the smaller, shiftier Sainristil and Jackson.
At 6-3, 209-pounds, Johnson has great size, runs clean routes and is a very consistent hands catcher. He's pretty much a prototypical wide receiver, but for now, feels like No. 5 on the depth chart.
With that said, I think he could carve out a nice role in 2020. Donovan Peoples-Jones is now a Cleveland Brown and Tarik Black will suit up for Texas this fall. Johnson is a lot like both of those guys so he might slide right in where they slid right out.
Given the make up of the wide receiver room, what kind of season would be considered stellar, standard and subpar for him?
Last year Peoples-Jones had 34 catches for 438 yards and six scores. Black had 25 grabs for 323 yards and a score of his own. Now I don't think Johnson will slide in and have 59 catches for 761 yards and seven touchdowns, but that's quite a bit of production to go around. I definitely see Jackson and Sainristil taking a big leap, but Johnson probably will too.
Last year, Johnson had just four catches for 61 yards and a score, and 39 of those yards and the touchdown came on one play late against Michigan State. In my opinion, a stellar season for him in 2020 would be a little better thank Black's 2019 campaign. Somewhere in the 25-30 catch neighborhood with more than 300 yards and a few touchdowns would be a great sophomore season for the Connecticut native.
I'd say a standard 2020 season for Johnson would be a slight uptick from last year. Collins and Bell are option A and B, and most expect Jackson and Sainristil to grow into much bigger options under Josh Gattis' second season running the offense. That would put Johnson at No. 5 on the depth chart, which should result in a slightly more productive season that last year.
A normal trajectory for a No. 5 wide receiver in his sophomore season would be 10-15 catches for around 225 yards and a couple of scores. If that's where Johnson ends up in 2020, he'd be in a really good spot heading into the 2021 season with Collins gone.
A subpar season for Johnson wouldn't really be about production as much as it would be about his position on the depth chart. If he's behind Collins, Bell, Jackson and Sainristil, and then freshmen AJ Henning and Roman Wilson also start to see the field, that would be bad for his 2020 season. I could still see a scenario where Johnson becomes the big-bodied outside receiver in 2021 once Collins is gone, but he might do even less this upcoming year if the youngsters bring a skill set to the offense that Johnson simply doesn't have.
I see Johnson slotting in somewhere between standard and stellar. I don't expect him to overtake Jackson and Sainristil because he's just too different from them. They are definitely slot guys, whereas Johnson is an X receiver, like Collins. Because of that, he'll watch from the sidelines more often than not. Still, Peoples-Jones and Black found their way into the box scores last year and I think Johnson can do the same.
I predict a season with about 20 catches for around 200 yards and a couple of scores for Johnson. As I said earlier, that would put him in a good spot heading into the 2021 season with the only X receiver build on the roster.