COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State coach James Franklin would like to land at least one quarterback in every recruiting class. When it comes to the Nittany Lions' Class of 2017, the Hunter has become the hunted.
That would be Hunter Johnson, the rising junior from Brownsburg (Ind.) High who already holds a four-star ranking and is considered among the top 10 QB prospects in his class. He's earned 19 offers to date, including one from the Nittany Lions.
The younger brother of Northwestern receiver Cole Johnson, Hunter has already visited Penn State four times. That included a trip last summer to check out campus and then a visit for the Blue-White Game in April.
With respect to the recruiting process in general, Johnson explained that his focus now is on building relationships. When it comes to the Lions, that means frequent talks with QBs coach Ricky Rahne and Franklin.
I'm very interested in Penn State, Johnson said at Nike's regional Opening event here last weekend. I've been calling them weekly right now, Coach Rahne. I've been calling Coach Franklin, as well, every couple of weeks. So I've developed a really good relationship there. We went to the spring game and a couple of practices. I think we're gonna go there in the summer.
If he stays healthy, Johnson will be a four-year starter at Brownsburg. According to the Indianapolis Star, he threw for 1,434 yards and 10 scores last season. Offers have been flowing in since.
I've been talking quite a bit with Notre Dame and Tennessee, Johnson said. N.C. State, I've talked to them quite a bit, as well. So developing relationships is the important thing to me, and seeing what coaches are going to be there when I'm there.
His overall take on PSU?
I like what they do in their offense, and I like Coach Franklin and Coach Rahne, he said The school academically is great, too, so it's a great program and they're on the rise. So they're definitely a school I'm interested in.
Franklin's outgoing personality has made an impression, too.
I just like the way he coaches, really, Johnson said. He's a very personable guy, he's easy to talk to and be around. Whenever I'm there, they're just really welcoming to me. (Franklin), and Coach Rahne as well, they're great guys. At the spring game, I felt like I was really able to see how Coach Franklin and Coach Rahne coach their players and react with them. I think that was pretty important for me to see.
Johnson checked in at 6-foot-2.5, 195 pounds in Columbus. He views himself as a pass-first guy, but I'll run when I have to. He is looking forward to rounding out his game even more in 2015, and having Division I prospects at running back (three-star rising senior Toks Akinribade) and receiver (three-star rising senior Tyler Kirtz) should help in that department.
This year, we're gonna have a new offensive scheme, so I think we're definitely going to try to improve there with the new offense, Johnson said. I'm going to try to be a little bit more mobile.
Even with the talented older players on his team, Johnson is still the most heavily recruited of the bunch. While he does not mind all of the attention, he is not making too much of it.
My parents have always taught me to be humble, he said. I went through the recruiting process with my brother, as well so I think he's been a good example for me. I just try to keep a steady head and just try to stay down to earth.
Still very early in the process -- barring NCAA rules changes, he will not be able to sign a Letter of Intent until February of 2017 -- Johnson is in no rush to make a commitment. He is going to try to see as many of the schools that he likes this summer.
Penn State is on the list, he said. Whether it is just a visit, a camp appearance or both remains to be seen, though.
Probably a visit, he said. I might go to a camp, depending on what the coaches say. They said they're gonna have a big recruiting day for all of the top recruits to come, it's like a picnic, so I think that would be fun to go to.