I watched a total of five plays before I concluded that defensive back/wide receiver Ronald Johnson was one of the top players in the country, and that's good because I didn't have a lot of evidence to go on. How could I be so sure? You just don't see many players that can run and move like Johnson can. I've seen a lot of great athletes on film…Johnson is one of the better players I've seen.
The only question about Johnson: where do you play him? Well, I guess there are two questions as Johnson is trying to return from knee surgery last season. However, if he returns to form, he'll certainly be in everyone's top 100.
Schools from all over the country are after Johnson, and schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Tennessee have already offered this top prospect.
As a defensive back, I didn't have a lot of film, probably 15 or so plays to view, but it was obvious he's a talented defensive back. Johnson stays low in his backpedal and seems like a natural when running backwards. He turns well to either side, and can turn and run with the best of them.
What I like about Johnson is his instincts—at least on these 15 or so clips. He jumped a number of routes on the clips I saw and had excellent drive out of his plant foot. He also was in excellent position (meaning he turned and looked for the ball) to make a play on every pass he defended on the film. He can definitely jump and he fights for the ball in the air.
I didn't get to see him much in bump-and-run situations, but if he attacks the player like he attacks the football, he should be fine. I also didn't see much of him tackling, which I'd really like to see, but he seems like a very aggressive, defensive-minded player in the clips I did have.
I always try to qualify the film I had to watch. 15 plays is not much evidence, but you can get an idea of a prospect's speed, ability to turn to either side, backpedal, instincts, aggressiveness, etc. on film. While nobody can predict future success, Johnson certainly showed excellent athleticism and physical abilities on film, and should have the athleticism to get on the field early no matter where he ends up.
I was equally impressed with Johnson as a wide receiver. He showed an excellent burst to get by people, and the extra gear to pull away from defenders when running full speed. He goes up to get the ball, and more importantly comes down with the ball as a receiver.
Again, I didn't have many clips, but his athletic ability is glaring compared to the competition he was facing. It's easy to kind of get wowed by players such as Johnson so you have to go back and watch a few similar players after watching his film to compare. I did just that and watched Irish recruit Darrin Walls again. I'd say Johnson stacks up nicely when compared to Walls. He might even have a little more speed.
There's no question that Johnson is one of the top corner prospects in the country. Will the Irish have a shot? It's always tough to take top talent out of the state of Michigan, but Johnson has been to Notre Dame a number of times already. If anyone can challenge Michigan for Johnson's signature, I think the Irish have the best chance.