One of the more interesting story lines of the 2019 recruiting season came to fruition yesterday as four-star Michael Johnson Jr. committed to Penn State, joining Ta’Quan Roberson in giving the Nittany Lions their second four-star quarterback commit of the class.
On a larger scale, bringing in two quarterbacks of their quality just doesn’t happen all that much in college football. In the last five years, here’s how many programs brought in two four-star quarterbacks in the same class:
- 2018: Washington (Yankoff/Sirmon) and Texas (Rising/Thompson)
- 2017: LSU (Brennan/Narcisse)
- 2016: South Carolina (McIlwain/Bentley)
- 2015: USC (Town/Darnold) and Tennessee (Jones/Dormady)
- 2014: N/A
So yeah, doesn’t happen all that often, and for good reason — four-star quarterbacks want to play. If you come into a school with another four-star quarterback in the same class, it greatly increases the chances that you end up transferring. That’s not being afraid of competition; it’s common sense. Just look at the names above: Brandon McIlwain, Ricky Town, Sherion Jones, and Quinten Dormady are all at different schools now, and the same will be true of the LSU, Washington, and Texas duos.
What makes Penn State’s situation interesting is the belief that Johnson Jr. could eventually switch to wide receiver if quarterback doesn’t work out. He has the size (6-foot-2) and speed (4.58 forty) to make the transition realistic, but I think it’s important to remember that getting guys to give up on the quarterback dream isn’t easy. Look at West Virginia’s David Sills who transferred from West Virginia to JUCO just because he thought he was a quarterback. He eventually did see the light, transferring back to West Virginia and now becoming an All-American wideout, but those cases and few and far between.
This isn’t to say Johnson Jr. is destined to be moved — or should be moved — from quarterback. He’s the rawer (apparently a word?) prospect compared to Ta’Quan Roberson, but I don’t think he’s quite the project some are making him out to be. He needs time for sure, but he’s not a Torrance Gibson or Jauan Jennings level project at all; i.e., someone who will be moved to wide receiver almost immediately. Honestly, I think he’s pretty close to where Tommy Stevens was at as a thrower coming out of high school, which is a fine starting point.
Penn State’s depth chart certainly plays in Johnson’s favor too. With Stevens locking in 2019, and Sean Clifford being the solid favorite for 2020 and 2021, that mean Johnson will most likely have three years to sit and learn before (seriously) challenging for the job as a redshirt junior in 2022.