Finally, we’ve reached the final commitment from the end of June extravaganza.
Florida athlete George Johnson III quickly burst onto the Michigan recruiting scene, made a visit and then committed shortly after that.
Michigan fought off a brief Florida State intrusion, but the Wolverines won out in the end. Johnson also received interest from Georgia Tech to run their triple option, which means Michigan has stolen their targets for quarterback in back to back years with Michael Barrett choosing the Wolverines over the Yellow Jackets.
Johnson is an explosive athlete who has switched between receiver and quarterback for his not-so-good football team. Those factors are probably the reason why he is stuck in the 700s in the national rankings as a mid 3-star. For Michigan, he was recruited to be a slot receiver, probably more in the mold of Eddie McDoom than Grant Perry.
Johnson is good in space with the ball in his hands and will probably be the beneficiary of the new offensive weapon role Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton are supposed to be creating this season. Johnson can really shine when given a chance to get the ball on sweeps or bubble screens.
Johnson did catch 58 passes for 1,173 yards for nine touchdowns as a sophomore, when he was playing mostly receiver. I’m guessing a lot of those yards were after the catch, but those are still solid numbers.
I also have to mention his quarterbacking skills. When Johnson was on his official visit in June, he spent most of his time with fellow Floridian Joe Milton. That makes a lot of sense, considering I couldn’t stop thinking of Milton while watching Johnson’s film.
Both players like to move around in the pocket, and when they’re facing pressure they can absolutely launch the ball on the run. Johnson is a much better scrambler when he tries to tuck it and run, but they both have huge arms. I could see Johnson getting some snaps at quarterback, where the staff may actually give him the option to throw the ball, unlike in the Pepcat package.
I’m not going to include that as a strength since he’s not likely to attempt many passes, but here’s just a taste.
Check out the rest of Johnson’s highlights below. It’s a combination of his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, and shows in which season each play happened, which is cool and also helpful since he played mostly receiver as a sophomore and quarterback as a junior.
There’s not many plays of Johnson playing wide receiver in the traditional sense. That makes it hard to get a sense on his route running ability, hands, etc. But the included plays do show promise.
He is good at getting up and high pointing the ball in jump-ball situations, like in the examples below.
He’s just running go routes in these examples, but is near the end zone on both plays so he doesn’t have enough room to burn past his defenders. Instead, he tries to stay in front of the defender so he can box out and get the best position on the ball.
The one play where he’s actually running a route gets cut off by the camera, but on a post, he catches the ball away from his body, keeps going in stride, uses his speed to turn the corner on the secondary and scores a touchdown.
Where Johnson is really a weapon, though, is when he gets the ball behind the line of scrimmage. Whether it be on a quick screen, scrambling or a read option, Johnson makes plays.
On Zach Charbonnet’s report, I gushed about his ability to make defenders miss with his combination of vision, footwork and balance. Johnson has the same skill set when toting the ball. He also presents the problem of having to cut his GIFs short because of his long runs.
Johnson makes the right read here, seeing the defensive end go for the running back, and keeps the ball. He then explodes up the middle and breaks through some feeble arm tackles on his way to the house. He shows good vision and speed avoiding the high safety.
This next play really demonstrates his vision well.
On a quick screen, Johnson crosses the entire field, through the teeth of the defense, gets to the edge and scores a 90-yard touchdown. He reads his blocking extremely well, running behind his lineman on the screen as they create a wall diagonally up the field. He doesn’t try to do anything special, just taking what his blockers are giving him.
Once he’s past his wall, he uses his speed to get to the edge and turn the corner ahead of any of the guys pursuing him. The end of the play shows him steadily pulling away on his way to the end zone.
Finally, this last play shows how slippery Johnson can be.
He avoids tacklers on this winding run in a couple different ways. The first tackle attempt was thwarted with good balance and his ability to absorb contact. It’s hard to see because he enters a group of bodies, but Johnson bounces off a tackler, stays on his feet and keeps going.
Once he gets to the sideline, he cuts back by changing his stride to put himself in position to cut back on the defender in his way. His sharp cut to the left leaves guys lunging after him as he gets into the open field and crosses the goal line.
Johnson plays quarterback like Johnny Manziel, running around in the backfield until he sees someone break open downfield and chucking it up. However, these scramble attempts can often end in disaster.
Johnson’s athletic superiority means he can escape these situations, but things may not end well when surrounded by FBS players.
On this play, Johnson is at quarterback. Not seeing anything he likes in the one second he took to survey the field, he bugs out in the wrong direction. He is feeling protection from his left side, but goes backwards and tries to go around them, instead of going in the other direction no one was.
After dropping back 13 yards, he spins away and has some space before another opponent starts closing in on him. Luckily, he sees a receiver open on the sideline and chucks up a strike on the run.
The play is made, and his ability to improvise on the run is impressive, but Johnson did not make the right decisions here. I’m sure there are plenty examples of him getting sacked instead of finding a man that aren’t included on a highlight film.
Now, Johnson won’t be dropping back often, so this exact situation is unlikely to happen. However, if he’s going to get the ball behind the line of scrimmage on screens and sweeps, there are opportunities for negative plays. If he gets too fancy and tries to break off a play, he could end up losing yards instead.
If Harbaugh and company are serious about opening up their offense and incorporating more run-pass option elements, Johnson is exactly the kind of player to be looking for. He can take the ball on a quick slant or bubble screen and go 70 yards for a score. He can run a reverse, or pass the ball on a trick play.
Once he gets on campus, Harbaugh and Hamilton can figure out what to do with him.