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Freshman CB Will Johnson ready to battle for starting spot

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Jim Harbaugh spoke recently about it on a podcast appearance.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have a star-studded group of true freshman coming into the program this year. The class ranked No. 9 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten, per 247Sports’ composite. From top to bottom, no position is in a better spot in this class than the secondary is.

Cornerback Will Johnson, a legacy player and a born-and-raised Michigander, was the highest ranked player in Michigan’s class. He was one of the first players to commit to the class and helped bring in a lot of other top talent. A five-star recruit and an early enrollee, Johnson has already taken part in strength and conditioning, as well as spring practices, and is well on his way to playing this fall in Ann Arbor.

On a recent edition of the In The Trenches podcast with Jon Jansen, head coach Jim Harbaugh was talking about freshman wide receiver Amorion Walker needing to gain strength and endurance this summer and how he’ll be a “tremendous football player” down the road. Then, unprompted, brought up Johnson.

“Much like Will Johnson,” Harbaugh said. “Will Johnson, you can just see it. He’s that type of athlete. When he covers guys, he’s right there with them. He’s gonna play and be battling for a starting position. Almost like Amorion, he needs the strength and endurance that you’d expect a midyear freshman to need.”

The secondary won’t look a ton different in 2022. Cornerbacks Gemon Green and DJ Turner return and both played a lot a season ago. BBoth figure to be in the staring rotation at the beginning of the season. The only departure from the cornerbacks room is Vincent Gray, who could very well be picked in just a couple weeks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Do-it-all football player Mike Sainristil is set to start at nickel corner, per Harbaugh on the podcast, so Johnson will have to beat out either Turner or Green for the other starting outside cornerback position. It isn’t likely he starts the season as a starter, but Harbaugh’s comments make it seem like Johnson will get ample playing time.

He was a five-star prospect and the crown jewel of the 2022 recruiting class for the Wolverines for a reason. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Johnson has elite size and length, as well as speed, for the cornerback position. It won’t happen right away, but Johnson has the potential to eventually be a starter early in his Michigan career.