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.



July 10th, 2015 at 12:00 PM ^

For those who frequent the National Parks, the other Shelton Johnson is a big timer. First he was featured prominently in the Ken Burn's documentary. Then if you visit Yosemite the talks with him receive top billing and are sold out with eager old people. I believe he grew up in Detroit. 


July 10th, 2015 at 12:44 PM ^

Not to worry.  We do need depth, but if he's "left alone in an electrical closet with some free weights and several cows", with that kind of life experience he'll be writing like John Steinbeck by his junior year.  That's a ton of depth from the DE spot.

Oh, literally.  Literally.  Literary.  I see.  Um, never mind.


July 10th, 2015 at 1:32 PM ^

Raise your hand if you think Ojemudia is going to be out there as a rush LB/DE in obvious passing situations?  Taco? Michigan used him in those spots as a freshman, but mostly at DT -- he's only gained weight since. Plus he's probably slated for rotation snaps at SDE. In other words, Taco's more linemen than edge guy.  You don't move a SDE into this role - you're more likely to slide an LB down ( a la Jake Ryan pre move to the middle). 

So, the fight for situational edge rushing specialist(s) is going to come down to kids like Marshall, Jones, and Johnson, plus maybe some LBs (RJS? Gedeon?) There's a huge void in experienced and athletic edge threats. 

This is where the freshman step in. Unless they are completely unprepared to see the field Jones and/or Johnson should play right away. You may not need both with Marshall around but you need one of them.  I'd guess they throw both straight into the fire and see who makes something happen.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Johnson hit campus weighing north of 230 and beating out Marshall to land a rotation spot with Ojemudia. Marshall will have a small size and experience advantage, but Johnson's a guy that was selected and targeted by Durkin.


July 10th, 2015 at 2:12 PM ^

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.


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July 10th, 2015 at 2:36 PM ^

I like that Johnson has a thin frame, but anytime he collides with an offensive lineman, the guy stumbles backward like his train just made a sudden stop. Imagine when Johnson gets some bulk.


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