Hello: Nate Johnson Comment Count

Ace December 13th, 2015 at 1:34 PM

[Bill Dorsten/247Sports]

Michigan has only recruited late-rising Thompson's Station (TN) Independence WR Nate Johnson for a few weeks. Among the flurry of recent scholarship offers to Johnson, however, the Wolverines' stood out the most, and he committed yesterday while on his official visit.

Johnson had previously committed to Purdue over the summer, but as he accrued major offers during a breakout senior season—one that culminated in a state title—he opened his recruitment back up. Johnson is the 21st commit in Michigan's 2016 class and the third at receiver, joining Brad Hawkins and Ahmir Mitchell.


Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
NR WR 3*, #98 WR 3*, 72, #170 WR 4*, 92, #40 WR,
#241 Ovr
3*, #88 WR,
#529 Ovr

Johnson's rankings cover quite a spread; he goes from unranked on Scout to a top-250 four-star on 247. That'll happen with prospects who break out late in the process; we'll see where he winds up as the recruiting services take a harder look at him following his Michigan commitment and strong senior year.

Johnson should be destined for the slot at Michigan. He's listed at 5'11", 170-175 pounds on three of the four sites; ESPN gives him an extra inch.

[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and the rest.]


After holding mostly FCS offers through his junior season, Johnson started attracting Power 5 interest with strong performances during the last camp cycle. He earned position MVP honors at the Columbus regional for The Opening in March, per 247's Steve Wiltfong:

The Thompson's Station (Tenn.) Independence 2016 Nate Johnson couldn't be ignored sharing the field with several high-profile players of the same position. Johnson knows how to get open, has reliable hands and made play after play.

Johnson also stood out at April's Quarterback Flight School in Atlanta in a field that included the likes of Shea Patterson and Jacob Eason, earning the #9 spot on Rivals' Woody Wommack's list of top camp performers ($):

On a day where big targets were stealing the show, Johnson did his part to represent for the slot wide receivers. He showed good quickness and a nice ability to cut without losing any speed. Johnson shot off of the line and was impressive on quick-hitting routes. He also showed the ability to run under deep balls when the quarterbacks let it rip downfield.

At May's Rivals camp in St. Louis, Johnson again caught Wommack's attention ($):

Johnson was in the MVP discussion at the wide receiver position late into the day on Sunday after he continually got open deep down the field. Johnson's greatest attribute is his speed and there's no question that was on full display. He also showed strong, consistent hands and if it weren't for a few off-target passes, he wouldn't have lost more than a couple of reps all day. Johnson's ceiling is limited because of his size (5-11, 174), but his results were impressive and he certainly looks like he should be able to find a home at the FBS level.

247's Clint Brewster has a free breakdown of Johnson's senior film; he thinks Johnson "instantly upgrade[s]" the receiver group at Michigan:

No question when you put on the tape that Johnson has elite skills after the catch. He can line up out wide and beat cornerbacks deep on the "Go" route or line up in the slot and use his quicks. Johnson's shiftiness and lateral agility in tight spaces is exceptional. Really good avoiding tackles and getting yards on the quick wide receiver screen. A legitimate threat to score whenever he touches the ball. In the mold of Golden Tate type receiver that brings toughness and edge to the position and has versatility to line up in different spots on the line of scrimmage.

Like Brewster, The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan sees Johnson as an impact player after the catch ($):

Johnson is an outstanding fit for the slot receiver position. Though he doesn't have the height to win the one-on-one match ups on the outside, that shouldn't be an issue inside where he can use speed and quickness to find openings against linebackers and safeties. 

That speed is an impressive asset, and combined with Johnson's route-running acumen, allows him to get open time and time again at the high school level. While the competition in college will naturally be tougher, he may have better match ups going against bigger, stiffer players than true cornerbacks. He's able to use double moves to get deep in high school, and is also savvy after the catch. 

Finally, Barton Simmons outlined why 247 ranks Johnson higher than anyone else in a highly recommended free post today:

Then the season came and Johnson validated his camp performances and was just unstoppable. It was a crime that he didn't win Mr. Football. He played with a quarterback that he had been with for years and their offense was crazy good (undefeated with very few close contests) but Johnson made it tick. He's one of the best route-runners in the country, has great hands, fantastic body control and he has a much bigger catch radius than his 5-11 size would suggest. He's also added good weight and strength as he's progressed in high school. At this point, he reminds me some of Christian Kirk down at Texas A&M in terms of body type.

Johnson looks like a slot receiver first and foremost; he's a great fit at that position and the competition for snaps should be wide open next year.


Johnson held offers from Army, Miami (YTM), Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, Temple, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and a long list of FCS programs. He picked up all of those major offers within the last year. 


Johnson is just the third Power 5 commit from Independence in the Rivals era (2002-present), joining four-star 2014 Tennessee signee Vic Wharton (who since transferred to Cal) and two-star 2014 Mizzou signee Finis Stribling IV.

The dearth of prospects is largely a product of Independence's program only being 11 years old. Just a couple weeks ago, Johnson caught two touchdown passes to bring the program their first state championship in Tennessee's 5A classification.


Johnson has been remarkably productive over the last two seasons. Per 247, he caught 62 passes for 1290 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, and he followed that up with a 87-1713-27(!) line as a senior.


Johnson posted a 4.60 electronic time at a SPARQ event (presumably the Opening regional), which gets zero FAKEs; that's a good, not-quite-elite time for a high school slot. Johnson posted a strong 111.39 overall SPARQ score, one bolstered by a very impressive 39-inch vertical. This summer 247 highlighted him as a prospect whose impressive springiness is an indicator of future success on the football field:

Nate Johnson, WR, Franklin (Tenn.) Independence 
***45-9.25 Triple Jump 
With a host of FCS level offers, Johnson has proven that he's capable of much more. His jump numbers are outstanding, he's tested well on The Opening circuit, he's an outstanding route-runner and he was extremely productive as a junior. What's not to like?

That kind of explosiveness not only shows up in straight-line speed, but also in critical areas like getting off the line and bursting in and out of breaks.


Senior highlights:

Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.


Johnson displays a level of skill and polish on tape that should have him in the mix for snaps in the slot as a true freshman. Michigan didn't utilize the slot much this year with freshman Grant Perry getting most of the available snaps; Johnson and potentially ATH Chris Evans should provide competition, with Johnson more of a true receiver and Evans more of a dual receiving/running threat.


Michigan can stand pat at receiver with two outside guys (Hawkins and Mitchell) and a slot (Johnson); Johnson's commitment at the very least should eliminate the possibility of another pure slot—namely Pie Young—joining the class. The Wolverines may continue to pursue receivers who can play on the outside—Donnie Corley, Dylan Crawford (who can play inside or outside), and Donald Stewart—if they find the space.

There are currently six spots left in a class that'll hit 27 commits, though Michigan should be able to take one or two more after grayshirts and the like are sorted out. Top remaining targets include DT Rashan Gary, TE Isaac Nauta, OT Jean Delance, RB Kareem Walker, ILB Devin Bush Jr, CB David Long, OG Terrance Davis, ILB Dontavious Jackson, CB LaVert Hill, WDE Levi Onwuzurike, and OLB Jonathan Jones.

Here's the class as it currently stands:


Big Boutros

December 13th, 2015 at 1:56 PM ^

Ever since Shane Morris arrived, I have paid closer attention to how recruits play in actual high school football games and not just in drills, camps, or 7-on-7 tournaments. It's why I'm so high on Brandon Peters and the same enthusiasm applies to Johnson. 87 catches and 27 TDs in a single season is an impressive resume.


December 13th, 2015 at 2:12 PM ^

We can't keep using Morris as a measuring stick. The dude missed his senior season in high school and was developed 0 in two years here. At the spring game he actually had a couple of touch passes instead of just throwing it as hard as he could. He developed more in spring practices than 2 years with the previous coaching staff. The kid has gotten a real raw deal.

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Big Boutros

December 13th, 2015 at 2:16 PM ^

How about Daelin Hayes? Somehow Rivals has him as the #13 overall recruit in the country this year. He has played seven high school football games, ever. That's not someone I'm tripping over myself to sign. We have no idea what kind of football player he is, only what he looks like in a uniform.


December 13th, 2015 at 5:47 PM ^

people like you who have seen him play two games at Michigan and yet bash him as no good any time a topic such as this comes up. There are other players on our roster who were ranked as high or higher than Shane and have done no better despite more opportunities, but don't seem to draw the same amount of scorn. Morris may or may not ever be good enough to play for Michigan, but he most certainly has gotten a raw deal from much of the fan base.


December 13th, 2015 at 6:11 PM ^

Then that's a bad rap, not a raw deal. The whole point of the Shane mention was not getting overly excited by camp results or Starz that aren't backed up by in game production.

If you wanna look at disappointing 5* to bash, we've got em - but they produced their assess off in HS games, not just at camps.


December 13th, 2015 at 3:11 PM ^

I'm not comfortable with your terminology there - the only "Raw Deal" Shane ever received was being put back in the Minny game last year after already concussed. Raw Deal to me says treated unfairly or not given any chances.

He has had a LOT of bad luck, starting with the Mono. That's unfortunate, for him and Michigan. It would have been awesome all around if he'd ever reached the potential he was supposed to have! 

But I feel like he's been given all the chances he's earned - more in fact because he clearly was NOT the best QB on the team in that Minny game.

Wanna talk about a raw deal - DG got a raw deal! 




December 14th, 2015 at 10:46 AM ^

Andrew Bunch – Led Independence HS to the State 5A title and 15-0 record. In 11 games he was 214 of 314 68% with 41 TD passes only 4 INT’s.  Rushed for over 500 yards and 11 TD’s. Take into consideration he rarely played into the second half because of blowouts. Only occasionally into the 4th Qtr.  Imagine the numbers if he had not missed 4 early games with an elbow injury. The competition was stiff, in the playoffs they played teams with 8-2, 10-1, 9-3, 12-1 and 12-2. All 5 playoff opponents finished in the top 10 final poll. They were 27th in the Max preps national poll. Oh, the state 6A champion was Ravenwood who beat Maxpreps number 19 (at the time) Maryville (44 game winning streak). Ravenwood had only 1 loss, to Centennial 30-13, a team Independence beat 2 times by 49-6 and 56-14 in the state semifinals.

This kid is the real deal, don’t worry about stars, and watch the video of how he plays.


Bertello NC

December 13th, 2015 at 2:00 PM ^

After watching his tape(and I'm not sure about his league competition but nonetheless) to me he has it all. He looks to be very athletic, has some breakaway speed, but the quickness to me is far above average. I agree with the GT comparison. He adds 10 pounds without compromising his speed and quickness will help him become more durable ect. He could become a real weapon in the middle. Gallon comparison yes but he seems even more quick twitchy and speedier than Gallon and I'm not discounting Gallons ability in any way. I think this is a big steal IMO. Adds another athletic speedy guy for Harbaugh to tinker with. Should compliment the other outside options and TE options we'll have .

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December 14th, 2015 at 10:52 AM ^

Andrew Bunch


In the second game of the year Centennial HS triple teamed him thinking the other recievers could not compensate. In taht game Nate had 1 reception for just a few yards. Bunch threw for 230 and 5 TD's in the first half of this one. Johnson is really good and a real steal for us, but Bunch is also the real deal.



December 14th, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

Dear Mr. Bunch,

We are so glad you joined our blog today, even if it is just to pimp your son Andrew for a Michigan offer. The Michigan Family is a great one, and you won't be sorry you've come aboard.

There are certain frequent posters on this blog who might be able to look at Andrew's tape and determine if our coaches might be (or should be) interested. You'll see several posts by Magnus in this thread, he is certainly an influential person on this board in regards to assessing football talent. He'll probably appreciate that you've linked to Andrew's Hudl page numerous times!

There are others as well, so just to be sure they all see the Hudl highlights keep linking them to any relevant thread on the blog - today's recruiting roundup for one.

One thing though - you never mentioned which class Andrew is in? If it's '16 we already have one of the highest ranked QB prospects in the nation in the class - he was Mr. Football in Indiana. Maybe you've heard of him?

If it's '17, we don't have a QB commit for that class yet - but we are recruiting some pretty big name guys. But, like you said - don't look at Starz, look at results! We were having a friendly family debate about just that thing above in fact!



December 13th, 2015 at 2:57 PM ^

The number of times he throws kids to the ground on his tape is incredible. Especially at 170 pounds. I think he's the WR I'm most excited about in this class now.


December 13th, 2015 at 6:37 PM ^

Nate just pops off of his highlight film and appears to be a very valuable and exciting pickup for Michigan.  The kid is a flat out  Playmaker (that double move is sick).  A smaller, but quicker Steve Breaston type, with flypaper hands.  Not only will be a a home run threat, but he will also play a very valuable "Julian Edelmanesque" role in possessing the ball and moving the chains.  There is a little Desmond and some Golden Tate in him too.

nice to set early expectations....