The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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56 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2019   COMMITMENT PROFILE W hen Marietta (Ga.) High four- star pro-style quarterback Har- rison Bailey committed to Tennes- see over Michigan in late November, many wondered where U-M would turn to find its 2020 quarterback. One week later, the Wolverines staff offered Phoenix Pinnacle three-star pro-style quarterback JD Johnson. The 6-4, 187-pounder almost im- mediately set up an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor where he took in a bas- ketball game and saw everything he needed to see. He committed to the Wolverines Dec. 21, just 15 days after being offered. "Things did move quickly with Michigan, but the recruiting process has been going on for over a year for me," Johnson explained. "What I experienced on my unofficial visit was a better fit for me than any other school I have researched or spent time at." Unofficial visits can sometimes be more productive than official vis- its because they can be more per- sonal and during down time for the coaches. Johnson capitalized on that opportunity and was able to see everything necessary for a verbal pledge. "I got to spend individual time with Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and Coach [Pep] Hamilton," he said. "I was just really impressed. There were a number of other coaches that went out of their way to engage me, and I left the visit feeling strongly like they had a plan for me and my future at Michigan. "Developing a connection with the other recruits that were on campus also played a part." In a pretty unique situation, Johnson is a Michigan-level recruit though he hasn't even been a full- time starter in high school. The junior signal-caller played behind five-star Oklahoma signee Spencer Rattler last season, but did play a lot down the stretch when Rattler was suspended. Rattler knew that John- son would step up to the challenge in his absence. "He's real solid," Rattler said. "He competed with me every day, and he's really getting a lot better. He's a big kid — 6-4, probably 205 or 210. He can really sling it. He's pretty fast actually. "He's a playmaker, and he's going to keep getting better, too." national recruiting ana- lyst Adam Gorney focuses on players from the western part of the coun- try and thinks pretty highly of John- son. Gorney admits that he doesn't typically pay super close attention to non-starting quar- terbacks but has s e e n e n o u g h o f Johnson to have high hopes for him next fall. "I love Johnson's film. I haven't seen him in person yet, but I will soon," Gorney said. "He has a very strong arm, and he can make all of the throws. He can put touch on the ball when needed, he can fire it in when needed, and back-shoulder throws are no problem. "If there's one risk in his game right now I'd say he's a little bit of a gunslinger where he trusts his arm a little bit too much. "There have been kids almost ev- ery year that have taken over as a senior starter and have had no prob- lem doing it. He looks likes one of those kids." Even though Johnson wasn't a starter, he did play plenty of foot- ball as a junior and acquitted himself nicely. He saw action in 11 games with five starts and completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,004 yards. He chucked 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions last year and should improve on all his numbers as the full-time starter in 2019. — Brandon Brown JD Johnson Gives The Woverines Their 2020 Quarterback FILM EVALUATION Strengths: JD Johnson has solid athleticism, a strong enough arm and a phenomenal work ethic. He's also been billed as a very good natural leader and really proved his worth last year when he had to step into a starting role after five-star teammate Spencer Rattler ran into some trouble and was suspended. Johnson stayed game ready and ended up having a solid season. Areas Of Improvement: Johnson is a bit slight and will need to add some bulk and strength to play at a competitive level in the Big Ten. Adding some size and muscles to a lanky frame will also help improve his arm strength, which is not elite. Once he's well into the 200-plus pound range, he'll have the physical tools to get everything done in a Michigan uniform. Michigan Player Comparison: There's not a ton to go on yet, for ei- ther player, but Johnson looks like a Dylan McCaffrey clone. Like McCaf- frey was in high school, Johnson is tall and thin heading into his senior season. Neither are running quarter- backs but can definitely move the chains with their feet if needed. Nei- ther would be described as having a cannon arm, but both seem to make every throw necessary. Finally, both are described as true leaders, hard workers and students of the game. — Analysis from Johnson played in 11 games with five starts for Phoenix Pinnacle in 2018, and completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,004 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM   Johnson "I was just really impressed. … I left the visit feeling strongly like they had a plan for me and my future at Michigan."

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