Michigan could wind up having a good chunk of players primed for a good breakout year in 2021. Among those candidates is 6-foot-3 wideout Cornelius Johnson.
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said that Johnson is a player who stands out when they take the field at practice. “Seeing the level of consistency that they’re (Johnson and WR Mike Sainristil) playing with, plays that they’re making are plays that they’re making because of their details,” Gattis said in April. “Not because of how athletic or how fast that they are. They’re applying the whole toolbox to allow those guys to be open.”
The story so far
Johnson was a four-star recruit who came to Michigan via Greenwich, CT. Ranked No. 175 nationally in the 2019 class, Johnson was the No. 26 overall WR nationally and No. 1 prospect in Connecticut. Johnson fielded offers from Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama, Stanford, and over a dozen other programs but only visited ND, PSU, and Michigan. Back in 2018, 247 Sports recruiting analyst Brian Dohn called Johnson a “three-year starter at high-level Power 5 program and projects as a third-round NFL draft pick.”
Johnson received a steady amount of playing time in his second year with the program in 2020, hauling in 16 receptions for 254 yards and 3 TDs.
Heck of a throw by Michigan QB: 37-yard TD pass to Cornelius Johnson pic.twitter.com/yXaMMUnDDF— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 7, 2020
The biggest game of Johnson’s career to this point was in Michigan’s 48-42 triple-overtime win over Rutgers last season. Johnson found chemistry with QB Cade McNamara, who relieved a struggling Joe Milton with UM down 17-0 in the first half. Johnson had 5 receptions for 105 yards and TDs against the Scarlet Knights.
Outlook moving forward
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said that the likes of Ronnie Bell, Mike Sainristil, and Johnson are leading the way at receiver for Michigan — which means Johnson will have plenty of opportunities to show his worth. Johnson’s going to be on the field a lot in 2021 and could wind up being Michigan’s biggest deep threat.
Johnson had a good season in 2020 that has become an afterthought/forgotten due to Michigan’s struggles as a whole, but Johnson produced and showed flashes of what’s to come. Whether Johnson can take his game to the next level remains to be seen but he’s a tall target with good enough wheels and athleticism to get open and most importantly — catch the football.
“Johnson’s body control, route running, and footwork makes him advanced for this stage of his career. He’s great at creating separation and corralling tough balls to catch. I envision him in the role Nico Collins plays in Michigan’s offense,” our own Jonathon Simmons said about Johnson back in 2018.
With a year of experience under his belt, maybe Johnson can slip into a Collins-esque role. It all boils down to consistency, a trait Gattis thinks Johnson has. 2020 was a learning curve that coincided with much-needed time on task for Johnson. With the amount of playing time Johnson received a season ago, there’s no reason to think he can’t build upon it positively with a full off-season to prepare for the 2021 schedule.