2015 Recruiting: Shelton Johnson

2015 Recruiting: Shelton Johnson Comment Count

Brian July 10th, 2015 at 11:06 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington.

Delray Beach, FL – 6'5" 220


Scout 4*, #291 overall
#27 DE
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#37 WDE, #100 FL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#36 DE, #75 FL
24/7 4*, #289 overall
#16 SDE, #38 FL
Other Suitors FSU, Miami, VT, MissSt, SoCar
YMRMFSPA Shawn Crable
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Older teammate of 2016 CB commit Antwaine Richardson. Practices his World Cup arm folding on the reg.


Half-season senior highlights:

Shelton Johnson was without question the most impressive acquisition in the three-week scramble before this year's Signing Day. Zach Gentry is more highly touted and more important for the roster, but Texas was loudly proclaiming a move towards spread 'n' shred QBs at the same time they courted a five-star A&M commit. Gentry compared that to getting coached by Jim Harbaugh, quarterback whisperer and made a logical decision to go somewhere else pretty far from home.

Johnson, on the other hand, is a Florida native who had been publicly favoring Florida State for six months before Michigan got involved late through DJ Durkin. One visit later and Johnson was ready to head north.

He was not the first to do so—Michigan grabbed fellow FL DE Reuben Jones earlier—but he was the best indicator of Michigan's renewed focus on the south, and Florida in particular. Rich Rodriguez mined Florida for little tough bastards; Harbaugh appears to be going for big tough bastards.

Johnson is certainly on his way to that at 6'5". Sites were split on a fourth star for him, but that did not prevent Florida State from pursuing him heavily after he was a summer camp offer. 247's Josh Newberg came back with some film from that camp:

Johnson is lanky, athletic, quick… and skinny. Every scouting report makes mention of the obvious: 220 pound guys don't do well as defensive linemen. They also report Johnson has the proverbial frame to layer on piles of muscle if he is left alone in an electrical closet with some free weights and several cows. This is not a gentleman who will top out at 250 unless that's a weight at which he is an excellent player.

While the need to add weight necessarily brings questions about whether Johnson can maintain his current quick-twitch ability, there's not much debate that he's got it right now. Scouting highlights:

  • 247's Clint Brewster: "…shows true explosive burst getting off on the snap and consistently crossing the face of offensive lineman to beat them into the backfield. Underrated strength and physicality, Johnson shows the core strength to battle bigger lineman upfront and get off blocks, even against the double team. …really light on his feet with good redirection skills. Really like his toughness and motor."
  • Scout's Jamie Newberg: "…ton of talent. He looks terrific on film. Johnson can put his hand in the dirt or stand up. He can also slide inside. He has versatility and athleticism. Johnson gets off the ball well and can use his hands to shed blocks. He shows speed and lateral quickness."
  • Scout's Corey Bender: "…oozes with potential and moves very well in space. He has a nice frame that can hold an additional 25 pounds with ease … does a good job of using his hands to disengage off blocks, and can provide a steady pass rush standing up or with his hand in the dirt."
  • ESPN: "displays good raw, wiry strength … Inconsistent, but flashes good initial quickness … Good burst and length … plays with a physical and at times violent nature. … good physical tools to develop. We don't see an early contributor … displays some good upside."
  • Via Tim Sullivan, Johnson's high school coach TJ Jackson: ""…one of the elite pass-rushers I've seen in a long time …. That's kids that I've coached with or against.
    definitely going to have to put on a little weight … fantastic student in the classroom and fantastic athlete."

Sullivan also had a lengthy article with an interview of the Sun-Sentinel's Ryan S Clark($) with an interesting perspective of his place in the Florida recruiting sphere:

…they could kind of see the raw talent, it was just a matter of how it would fit into a system. This year, we saw that. He played as a down lineman, and here in South Florida there's so much talk about everyone trying to find that hybrid who can play D-end and linebacker. I don't know if he can play linebacker, but he got the job done very, very well."

Johnson first showed he'd be a big prospect when he caught FSU's attention, and then followed that up with an excellent senior year. There are still a number of questions he has to answer—the recruiting rankings seem accurate when they split on placing him as a 4 star or a 3 star.

At Michigan, Johnson is likely ticketed for the "buck" spot. Whether you define that as a linebacker or a defensive end is a matter of perspective. It is very similar to the way Greg Mattison used his weakside ends: maybe two thirds of the time they would be a defensive and, and a third of the time Michigan would slant its line, use the SAM as a DE, and drop the WDE into coverage or a run fit. From what I've seen of the Florida defense, that's about what their buck LBs do.

DJ Durkin's most recent buck was 6'3", 260-pound Dante Fowler, the third pick in the most recent NFL draft. That is about the weight Johnson will aim for as he attempts to unseat redshirt freshman Lawrence Marshall and (maybe) junior Taco Charlton.

Etc.: There is apparently a famous park ranger Shelton Johnson? One does not expect to type a football player's name into Google Image Search and get back a guy who looks like a cross between a Union soldier and Steve Irwin. Wants to be an engineer—my man.

Why Shawn Crable? Crable was an ostentatiously skinny 6'6" DE/LB hybrid who spent his first couple years at Michigan at LB before transitioning to full-time DE as a senior. He is a pretty tight comparison. One caveat: Crable was a consensus top 100 prospect. Johnson is on the 3/4 star borderline.

Frank Clark is another good comparison point. Clark came in a 220-pound high school safety and hit 280 by his junior year. He kept his athleticism and ended up a second-round pick.

Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. Healthy and little position projection, but large spread, very few camps, and the fact he's far from a finished product make him a bit of a wildcard.

Variance: Moderate-plus. Needs a lot of weight and some debate about how good of a prospect he is.

Ceiling: High. If he develops could be a first round NFL prospect. The FSU offer and serious pursuit down to signing day is an excellent sign. That is a program coming off a national championship that had a five-star DE in the boat and they went after Johnson hard. 

General Excitement Level: High-minus. Long way to go; excellent prospect to develop.

Projection: Another probable redshirt. Michigan is kind of thin at defensive end but probably not thin enough give Johnson significant playing time this year. With Ojemudia graduating a number of snaps open up in year two, when Johnson should be hefty enough to play the weakside end/"buck" linebacker role.


2015 Recruiting: Keith Washington

2015 Recruiting: Keith Washington Comment Count

Brian July 7th, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel.

Prattville, Alabama – 6'1", 170


Scout 3*, NR overall
#148 CB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#26 ATH, #16 AL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#117 ATH, #32 AL  
24/7 3*, #1460 overall
#123 ATH, #164(!) AL
Other Suitors Cal, TCU, Miami, Mizzou, Louisville, UNC, Duke, UK
YMRMFSPA Steve Breaston or
James Rogers
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Older teammate of Kingston Davis and Dytarious Johnson at Prattville. Decommitted from Duke and then Cal.


Senior hudl film. DB-only highlights as well.

The world was not particularly different when Keith Washington committed to Michigan. He is one of the first of the Harbaugh Guys, and demonstrated that in person with the man himself:

"They told me they had heard I was pretty fast, and I told them I'd run a 4.3," Washington recalls. "And they were like 'we don't believe you.'

"So I just said, OK, I'll run one for you right now outside. Let's go."

That story made the signing day press conference and will hopefully be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It is likely to be one on a slow burn. Washington is a project. He is projected by just about everyone to be a cornerback in college, but—as is often the case with super athletes—he played quarterback in high school. After a senior-year transfer from Texas, Washington walked into a Alabama state power at Pratville and immediately won the starting QB job. As a result all of his DB film is underclassman stuff from Texas. Also he is 170 pounds. It's going to take some time.

Even so there's a major disconnect between Washington's recruiting profile and his high school exploits. Prattville made the 7A* state championship game with Washington at the helm, rushing for 1200 yards at a Denard-esque 7.9 YPC. His passing numbers are pretty good, too: 61%, 1800 yards, 19 TD, 5 INT. He was mentioned as a (fringe) candidate for Alabama's Mr. Football award, won the Montgomery Advertiser's 6A-7A player of the year award… and nobody ranks him in, or really even near, the top ten players in the state when it comes to college potential. He does have to switch positions, but you'd think a guy who ripped through the best competition the state of Alabama had to offer would get a bit of respect even if it was as an "athlete."

Washington is certainly that, running sub-4.5 40s as an underclassman out of Clute, Texas. By the time Harbaugh sat down with him his go-to number was 4.38. Whether that is fake or not, his ability to separate himself—quickly—from defensive backs in Alabama's highest division leaps off his tape. A coach who played against him last year:

"The main thing that stands out about Washington is just how athletic he is," Dukes said. "He was dangerous whenever he got outside the pocket so that was our main focus. We wanted to keep him from doing that. … He can really run. Being athletic at quarterback is a bonus and hopeful, but it's not expected. If your quarterback is shifty and able to run like him it's a huge bonus, but at corner it's a must. You have got to have a great athlete there and I think he is that."

ESPN praises him as a "gifted athlete," repeatedly notes that he "demonstrates he can both run away from defenders and catch people from behind," and says he's a "general athlete that looks comfortable in whatever role he is asked to play."

Keith Washington is fast. Meanwhile his father (who is also named Keith Washington) was an Alabama high school star himself and a fringe NFL player for several years.

The transition to corner is the holdup in his rankings. There is little scouting on him for obvious reasons. He's 170 pounds. He's been mostly an offensive player the last couple years. His DB film from his Texas days looks rough to my amateur eye. Touch The Banner also has the quintessential scout-guy question about him:

I question whether Washington has the hips to be a big-time corner. He's a little bit stiff in the upper and lower body, and he does not transition out of a backpedal very well. As one might expect of someone who's primarily a cornerback, he also lacks tackling technique and doesn't pack much of a punch. Some of these things are technique issues - and strength and conditioning issues - that can be helped with some time in college.

Overall, I look at Washington and I see Jeremy Clark, who's a 6'4" safety for Michigan.

It's tough to make any call on him given the QB transition. When he was a Cal commit, Cal folks were impressed:

Physically, he's long and lean; and he really doesn't have a frame suited for some of the physicality required of a safety. … great acceleration. His ability to turn and chase is impressive with his closing speed. His height and long arms help him in press coverage and playing the ball, and he's a willing though unpolished tackler. … his athleticism makes him a natural in pass coverage. …athletically, Washington really is impressive.

Unfortunately, when I think "recent Cal defensive back" good things do not come to mind. This does:

An optimistic take on a commit should be taken in the context it was given. Clint Brewster also gave an evaluation a swing:

…got to like his height at 6-foot-2, and his rangy frame. Washington won't have an issue covering the big outside receivers. He's got good speed and can cover ground. … Washington shows good change of direction and breaks on the ball quickly.

Can he play cornerback? Nobody really knows.

There is a backup plan. Harbaugh loves to flip guys around and we already have a pretty good idea of what Keith Washington looks like as an offensive player. He looks like Steve Breaston. He looks creepily like Steve Breaston, playing against the top level of Alabama football. Northwestern recruited him as Kain Colter II, except fast(!):

While Washington says he "can come down under center" if he has to, his strengths are working from the shotgun and running the zone-read game -- much like Kain Colter did for Northwestern over the last four years.

Unlike Colter, however, Washington is a burner with "low 4.4, high 4.3 speed."

Michigan's slot receivers in spring were playing corner and then booted off the team (Norfleet), a true freshman probably better suited to the outside (Cole), and various walk-ons. There is room for a Steve Breaston even in Harbaugh's world of thud.

If it turns out the transition to corner is not going very well, the obvious thing to do is stick him at receiver and see if he can also go to work. I'm not sayin'… I'm just sayin'. I am sayin' that I wonder how seriously we should take any of these positional designations given the propensity of Harbaugh to try anyone anywhere. This goes double for Washington, a quintessential ATH recruit.

Get him in, guess at a position, and let marinate.

*[This is the largest classification. Alabama just added it last January for reasons unknown. There are only 32 teams in it, which seems small for a high school division.]

Etc.: Will wear #6. Attention Michigan social media wranglers: make this happen.

What song are you picking if you had to sing karaoke?

“That’s a tough one. I’d probably have to pick Usher’s ‘Let it Burn.’”

Can you sing?

“Oh yeah.”

Please make this happen.

Why Steve Breaston or James Rogers? If you are going off the high school film that does not look like it was filmed underwater, Keith Washington looks like a clone of high school Steve Breaston, who was a dual-threat quarterback and all-around athletic terror. Washington has the same kind of foot-in-the-ground shallow cut Breaston did, and has the ability to maintain speed through it like Breaston did.

As a defensive back the closest comparison I have is not a positive one, but James Rogers was a tall, very fast offensive player in high school with a modest recruiting profile who many people thought would be a defensive back. He bounced back and forth between offense and defense before becoming a starting corner on Rich Rodriguez's first defense. He could not flip the ol' hips very well and was constantly picked upon.

Morgan Trent is another potential comparison here. Trent had a higher profile as a recruit; in college he ended up being a very fast straight-line guy who couldn't change direction well enough to thwart Troy Smith.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy and high profile player, but a major position switch clouds matters. Also no camps after a few early combines—very possible that was a reason his ranking was bleah.

Variance: High. This is an Ikea prospect who you must assemble yourself.

Ceiling: High. 6'2" cornerback with excellent speed.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Love the go-get-it mentality, love the athleticism, worry about major transition and ability to add a bunch of weight and maintain said athleticism. I prefer him as an offensive player.

Projection: One of the surest redshirts on the team. Washington needs to add weight, move to a position he either hasn't played ever (receiver) or hasn't played in a long time (cornerback), and then add more weight.

After that your guess is as good as anyone's. He could end up a starting corner, he could be a slot receiver, he could never find a home and fade away.