Verbal View: Examining the Commitment of Ricky Johns to West Virginia

West Virginia bolstered its defense with the addition of two-way standout Ricky Johns to its 2017 football verbal commitment list. We examine the fit and strengths of the Pennsylvania standout.


Johns has talents as both  wide receiver and a defensive back, and believes the former helps him perform in the defensive secondary, especially in the area of reading the quarterback. He also has excellent hands, which he shows on both sides of the ball. He attacks the ball and snatches it cleanly, rarely using his body to help with the catch. On defense, his reactions are good, and his video shows multiple instances of coming off his assigned man to help make a play against another receiver once the ball is in the air.

Johns has the frame and reach to be a disruptor at spur or bandit. At six feet, three inches, he can obscure passing lanes, and should have no trouble covering receivers from the slot or out of the backfield. 

"He has good length and his change of direction is a plus," recruiting analyst Brian Dohn said. "He gets up the field well, and he had a presence coming off the edge."

"I am comfortable playing either man or zone," Johns told after committing to the Mountaineers. "I think my reactions and ability to read the quarterback's eyes are some of my strengths."

Johns will also continue to play both ways for North Penn High School as a senior, which will give him more experience upon which to draw when he begins his college career. 


Admittedly, Johns is a bit of an under-the-radar prospect. With offers from Temple and Villanova, he wasn't high on the list of schools across the region. However, WVU liked his versatility, and saw a good fit on its current defensive scheme. He might be a "tweener" in many defensive systems, but at West Virginia he should have a comfortable home at one of the strong safety spots.

"Right now, it's defense," Johns said of his initial landing spot at WVU. "They see me as a strong safety starting out."

Johns will need to bulk up to stand up to running attacks in the box, but certainly has the frame to do so.

"In the running game, he was in the right spot but just needed to be bigger and stronger to handle the offensive line scraping him," Dohn said. 

Johns also noted that while he is committed to WVU, he will still listen to offers from other schools and take visits during the upcoming season.


Johns said West Virginia "was my number one choice" all along, and that he decided to commit to the Mountaineer program after discussions with his head coach. He cited the football facilities at WVU, as well as Morgantown as a whole, as major factors in his decision. He got the chance to see both during a junior day visit, and was very complimentary of the entire feel of the town, which is routinely cited as one of the top small cities in the U.S. in many different categories.

While Johns hasn't been highly rated by recruiting services, he is the sort of player that could shine when finding the proper fit for his skills. West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense may be just the ticket for him, as his blend of size and pass coverage abilities could make him very good in the system.

"I always viewed him as a defensive player because of his frame," Dohn summarized. "There is no reason he can't get to 220 pounds in college. It may take a year or twin the weight room but Johns has a chance to become a very good player for West Virginia."

West Virginia 2017 Football Commitment List


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