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National Signing Day 2017: Welcome to Penn State, Donovan Johnson

The four star defensive back, one of the final commits in 2016, is officially a Nittany Lion.

Photo courtesy of 247 sports.

The culmination of the recruiting season is here, as National Signing Day 2017 is finally upon it. Here at Black Shoe Diaries, we’ll have coverage throughout the day of Penn State’s recruiting class, taking a player-by-player look at each member of the class, and taking a bigger picture look at the class as a whole. Thanks for stopping by, and if you aren’t already following, please follow @BSDTweet on Twitter for more recruiting news and notes.

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Donovan Johnson committed to Penn State this past December after his final official visit, an #elite recruit that picked the Nittany Lions over Virginia Tech, WVU, Louisville, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Tennessee, amongst others.


Position High School Height/Weight 247Composite Rank Positional Rank
Position High School Height/Weight 247Composite Rank Positional Rank
Cornerback Detroit, MI (Cass Tech) 5-foot-10, 176 pounds Four-star (0.8907) No. 327 overall, No. 37 cornerback, No. 10 player in Michigan


Scouting Report

A bit undersized, Johnson nonetheless has been a standout for Cass Tech, one of the premier programs in the state of Michigan. Despite not garnering an offer from Michigan or (more surprisingly) Michigan State, Johnson did get an invite to the US Army American Bowl, and the Opening Nike camp - and he was even the defensive back MVP of the regional Opening Camp he attended.

Johnson played defense, running back, and was a returner for his high school team, and he’s been clocked at running a sub-4.4 forty yard dash - making him one of the fastest guys in this recruiting class (and was the fastest man at the Opening). Having played on the offense, he has a nose for the ball, and his speed and shiftiness will help him overcome his small stature.


Redshirt Yes

With the cupboard pretty much stocked at cornerback (Jordan Smith is the only CB that left after the 2016 season), and with Lamont Wade in the fold, it’s likely that Johnson will take a redshirt year to bulk up and enter the lineup for the 2018 season. If Johnson does end up seeing time, it may end up being in the return game, if that ends up being a weakness.

When both Christian Campbell and Grant Haley move on after the 2017 season, Johnson will have a real shot to break into the two-deep, especially taking on Haley’s role of a shifty, small, fast defensive back with good instincts. If Wade, as is speculated, moves to safety, then he could challenge for a starting spot alongside Garrett Taylor and John Reid, provided Reid doesn’t leave for the NFL himself.

Cornerback is one of the deepest and most skillful positions for Penn State football, and that recent tradition continues with Johnson.