Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Grosse Pointe South cornerback Will Johnson made a lot of Michigan fans happy when he committed to Michigan earlier today. The 6-3, 190-pounder is good enough to contribute from day one and should be a great culture fit at U-M as well. This is the exact type of recruiting battle Michigan needs to win and made me think about what his pledge meant to the Wolverines.
In reference to Johnson's commitment to U-M, it was...
1. A layup
I'm not trying to downplay the fact that Michigan landed Johnson because prospects of his caliber can literally go wherever they want, but these are the kinds of recruitments that should be gimmes for several reasons. Johnson picked U-M because (1) he's a proud, in-state kid who likes the idea of repping Michigan, (2) he's the son of Deon Johnson, who played at U-M in the early 90s, (3) he's needed badly and he knows it, and (4) he lives within an hour of campus. Michigan generally gets who it wants from within the state, but not always. Those kinds of recruitments should be automatic but sometimes they aren't. Everything was working in Michigan's favor with Johnson so him picking the maize and blue is full of common sense.
I do understand that there's really no such thing as a layup in recruiting, but this was as close as it gets. Michigan doesn't miss on in-state players it wants very often, but it's happened. Michigan fans should be very happy it didn't with Johnson.
2. An absolute necessity
Michigan just doesn't have a ton of talent on the roster ready to play at cornerback right now. From the 2018 class, Michigan landed Myles Sims, Gemon Green and Vincent Gray. Sims is now at Georgia Tech and we saw Gray and Green struggle often last year. In the 2019 cycle, Michigan landed Jalen Perry and DJ Turner. There's still time for them to figure it out but we obviously haven't seen much of them yet. Daxton Hill was also a part of that class and he might be the best cover guy on the roster, but he's been a safety to this point. We'll see if that changes at all this year with new leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Andre Seldon and Darion Green-Warren represented Michigan's cornerback haul in the 2020 class. It's just way too early to know what U-M has in them but they weren't able to crack the lineup as freshmen. Finally, the 2021 class has only one cornerback in it — Ja'Den McBurrows. He looks like a solid player, and had some nice offers to his name, but he wasn't rated very highly. Johnson is a big timer at the position and will certainly look to play very early once on campus.
3. A big win on the trail
I did call Johnson's recruitment a layup for Michigan, but I don't care. Going toe to toe with the best programs in the country, who absolutely wanted Johnson, and winning, is a big deal. Johnson looked hard at Ohio State and, given what the Buckeyes have done with corners in recent years, OSU had to be quite attractive. Playing in southern California also must've been a pretty nice draw for a kid who has lived through Michigan winters. Throw in the fact that Johnson had offers from every other college football power as well and the Michigan coaches should be feeling very good today.
4. Another endorsement for Mo Linguist
Johnson's commitment gives U-M three defensive backs in the 2022 class and Mo Linguist was the point man on all of them. Several recruits have raved about Linguist as a "real" person and love the idea that he was just coaching in the NFL last year. People are certainly questioning Jim Harbaugh's ability to run a program at this point, but hiring Mo Linguist was a great move. Whether Harbaugh is around for one more season or five-plus, Michigan fans need to hope that Linguist stays in maize and blue.
5. A big deal
Overall, landing Johnson is a big deal. He's an elite talent, he'll be a great fit at U-M, both on and off the field, he's a leader in the 2022 class and with other in-state prospects and he proves that big time players still want to come to Michigan even if there have been on-field struggles and questions surrounding Harbaugh.
There's no doubt about it — things need to improve on the field in a big way — but it starts with landing guys like Johnson. One step at a time.