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Cornelius Johnson is a good candidate to jump into the receiving spotlight

Entering his second season, there will be plenty of opportunities for some big plays on the outside.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.

Cornelius Johnson, true SO

247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (WR 26, Overall 175)
2019 Stats: 8 rec, 61 yards, 1 TD

Despite the lengthy list of names ahead of him on the depth chart, Cornelius Johnson saw the field all throughout his first season on campus. The wide receiver was not used a ton in the passing game, but his talent is clearly there, and the coaches wanted to see him play. With a year of experience on the field and an offseason to grow and digest the offense, all arrows are pointing up.

With some of his teammates moving on, the window is open for Johnson to take a giant leap forward this fall. He is a true outside receiver with the body type to be a big playmaker. Michigan needs weapons downfield and is trying to revamp the passing game while starting in a new quarterback and losing a couple big receiving threats. This is a golden opportunity for Johnson to take a leap forward and become a huge contributor for the Wolverines.

Is Johnson primed to be the next big breakout at wide receiver?

A four-star recruit with plenty of preseason praise, there was always a chance that Johnson would end up burning his redshirt in 2019. The coaches clearly saw no reason to hold him back, as the freshman took the field in all 13 games. His stats were about what one might expect for the fifth receiver on the depth chart. Aside from a perfectly executed — and completely unnecessary, but deeply satisfying — RPO touchdown against Michigan State, there were not many highlights from his first year.

That is not a cause for concern, however. Michigan did not utilize Johnson because there was not a need to rush him into the offense. Those barriers are mostly gone 12 months later, with his competition lacking and experience vastly increased. Up next is a chance to play starter’s minutes and go from minimal playing time to key contributor.

Johnson has great attributes and looks like someone who can dominate in the air. He represents a legitimate threat on the outside and has the speed to be a solid deep ball target. Between him and Nico Collins, Michigan should have enough to reload in the vertical passing game. There are still uncertainties for Johnson, as there are for most young receivers, including drops and blocking, but he is a near lock to step into the lineup. His targets may somewhat depend on his peers, but there is a real chance for him to take a giant leap forward this season.

When it is all said and done, Johnson should end up as a solid NFL draft pick if everything goes right. He has a ways to go to get to that level and plenty of time to do so, and that might not be dependent on his sophomore season. However, he has a chance to make a leap similar to what Ronnie Bell was able to do in his second year, shooting up the depth chart to become an essential piece in the offense. That is more of a hope than a prediction, but there would be no surprise to see him completely take off this fall.