Landing Four-Star Wide Receiver Keyshawn Johnson

Big Red Report publisher Josh Harvey feels the commitment of four-star wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson is the biggest in the Big Ten era.

After nearly five years as publisher of Big Red Report, the decision by Keyshawn Johnson Jr. to head to Lincoln is the Huskers’ biggest commitment in the Big Ten era. hype train is now leaving the station – all aboard.

Living under a rock? The four-star wide receiver from Calabasas high school in California is the son of former USC Trojan and NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.  If you are all of a sudden asking if the Trojans offered Jr. – they did. So did schools like Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama. 

Johnson is a nice player. Raised around the game, he is an extremely polished route runner says national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. The nation’s No. 20 overall wide receiver in the 2017 class, Johnson has all-conference potential in the Big Ten. At 6-foot-1, 195-pounds already, he has the frame to play right away. With plans to be an early enrollee, the chances will only go up. 

“He has worked hard to improve his overall athleticism and down field speed,” said Biggins. “He has a big frame that he's still growing in to and plays a physical style and is a strong blocker. He shows very good body control and timing on jump balls and is a highly competitive player as well.

"I think Johnson's talent level has also been understated a little. He's not a finished product, far from it, and some look at him and don't see a 4-star wide receiver but when it comes to recruiting, it's all about projection. Johnson is starting to come in to his own as a player, becoming a better athlete and still growing in to his body. He still has a baby face and isn't close to reaching his full potential. In a couple of years, I think you're looking at a player who could become a significant contributor."

Johnson will join what is becoming a stacked wide receiver group in Lincoln. In Johnson's second year with the program, guys like Stanley Morgan, Jaevon McQuitty and Lavan Alston will also be in the rotation. All were four-stars on at least one network coming out of high school. Derrion Grim, who in 2018 would be either a redshirt sophomore or junior,was a three-star prospect, but broke many California state receiving records in high school and is looking very solid this spring as an early enrollee. 

Johnson’s commitment is a nice boost to the receiver’s room. He’s definitely not the type of player you turn away. But, Nebraska landing his commitment goes well beyond the type of player they are getting on the field.

In recent memory, Nebraska players Michael Rose-Ivey, Josh Banderas and Eric Lee/Avery Anderson really became leaders in their recruiting class. As early commitments, they tried to help Nebraska recruit others to Lincoln.

Expect the same from Johnson. The only difference is he will be doing it from a fertile place like the state of California, where he is widely known because of the 7-on-7 circuits and his father. 

“Regardless of where I go, I’m going to recruit,” Johnson told recently. “When I go to a school, I’m going to make sure I’m surrounded by the best. I’m going to recruit the best DBs so I can get work every single day. Pat is already a good quarterback, but they need more quarterbacks to throw me the ball. 

“No matter where I go, I’m going to find the best players to play with me. I feel like that’s not going to be an issue at all. I feel like I have a pretty good word and if I say something is good, people are going to trust me. Wherever I go, I’m going to recruit as hard as I can. With Nebraska offering all these guys that I know out West that I know, if I was to commit there I think it would make recruiting easy for me.”

Nebraska has already seen some benefits from just flirting with Johnson during the recruiting process. In February, the Huskers landed defensive back Marquel Dismuke, a teammates of Johnson’s at Calabasas high school.

Dismuke visited Lincoln initially with Johnson last March. The visit was setup by Keyshawn Johnson Sr., who played under Nebraska head coach Mike Riley at USC while Riley was the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. Without the past relationship, it’s very unlikely Nebraska would have landed the four-star defensive back.

In addition, Calabasas high school five-star athlete Darnay Holmes and four-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia also made the initial trip to Lincoln. The Huskers remain in the hunt for both prospects.

I think Johnson will have a big role in recruiting players from the SoCal region and beyond," said Biggins. "He's a very popular kid with a magnetic personalty and said he plans to be very aggressive recruiting other top recruits around. We'll see right away how affective he is as a recruiter as two of his good friends and teammates, Tristan Gebbia and Darnay Holmes plan to commit in the next few months."

In a span of 13 months, Johnson visited Lincoln six times. Financially blessed, the junior had the ability to see many schools on unofficial visits – often multiple times. The Nebraska coaches and support staff put in major recruiting hours chasing the wide receiver – more than any other school in the country. Losing him, even if not in the 11th hour, would have been a blow.

While no recruit is in the bag until they sign their name on the dotted line, Jr. and Sr. have both been adamant when a decision was made they would done with the recruiting process. Usually I don't 100 percent believe non-local recruits when that is said, but Johnson's ability to see as many schools as he wanted makes me believe him. 

I have no doubt Johnson is going to become a nice receiver in Lincoln – especially in Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s offense. He will be a guy Nebraska turns to when have a third-and-eight. I’m more excited about the next 23 months of recruiting.

In the last three national recruiting class rankings, Nebraska has failed to land a Top 25 class. It’s not about the X’s and O’s if you don’t have the Jimmys and Joes. Nebraska won’t return to a conference championship competing level without better talent.

Johnson is by no means a savior to Nebraska football. But he could be a big piece of the puzzle to help land other big fish to Lincoln.

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