Sunday afternoon, Ohio State landed 2021 four-star Jakailin Johnson who looks to be the next player that will carry on the BIA tradition in Columbus.
A consensus top eight cornerback recruit in the country, Johnson has everything Ohio State looks for in a cornerback. He is 6-foot even with long arms and loads of athleticism that allows him to shine on both sides of the ball at the high school level.
Johnson is talented all around, but there are three important traits to his game that set him apart and will allow him to contribute early at Ohio State: his ability to mirror in coverage, his tackling ability, and his ball skills.
Below we will take a look at all three of these traits and how he uses them at the high school level.
Mirror in coverage
This is easily the most impressive trait in Johnson's game because far too often, highly-ranked high school cornerbacks can get away with being too handsy and aggressive, a habit which will hurt them down the line. But Johnson does not do that, instead showing superior technique.
Johnson reads the receiver, trusts his technique, and can flip his hips quickly, allowing him to mirror on defense without using his hands aggressively. That is not to say that Johnson does not use his hands, because he does that effectively as well, but he uses them in combination with his hips, not instead of them. This ability to mirror will translate to the next level, once talent is equalized and proper technique is important.
Below are three plays that show Johnson' advanced ability to mirror in coverage:
- Play one: Bottom of the screen, lined up on the left side of the field. Johnson is lined up two yards off the line looking as though he is going to press. Instead, Johnson begins his backpedal on the snap then once the wide receiver breaks outside he turns to run with him. Once the ball is in the air the receiver engages Johnson but that just allows him to make an easier interception while hardly touching the receiver.
- Play two: Bottom of the screen, lined up on the right of the field. Similar to the previous play, Johnson is three yards off and mirrors the receiver then once he breaks upfield Johnson turns to run with him. Staying in the receiver's hip pocket the whole play Johnson breaks up the pass downfield without touching the wideout.
- Play three: Bottom of the screen, lined up on the right side of the field. Even more difficult than the previous two plays Johnson is playing off but does not bite on the double move and does so without grabbing the receiver. Instead, Johnson flips his hips and runs with the receiver up the sideline and eventually causes an incompletion
Not very many players can trust their technique and flip their hips like that when necessary but Johnson is elite at mirroring which will allow him to be a factor early in his career.
Set the edge
Some cornerbacks are coverage players that disappear when asked to tackle a running back or wide receiver in space, but not Johnson.
While Johnson is great in coverage, he is very much willing to come up from his cornerback position to play the run. This trait specifically will help Johnson play early as he continues to grow and gain technique at Ohio State he will still have his ability to set the edge in the running game.
These three plays from Johnson's junior highlights show his ability to play the run:
- Play one: Lined up at the bottom of the screen to the right. Johnson goes with his receiver that is supposed to block but he reads the dump down pass and as his teammate wraps up the runner's legs Johnson drops a shoulder that forces a fumble.
- Play two: Bottom of the screen, to the left of the field. He runs with the wide receiver off the line but once he tries to block him, Johnson sheds him then turns back and tackles runner before the first down.
- Play three: Bottom right of the screen alignment. Lined up in press coverage Johnson sheds the receiver trying to block and comes up to drop the runner for a loss.
Johnson is not only great in coverage but he is a physical and willing tackler that can do it all as a cornerback.
Every defensive back wants to make plays with the ball in the air, and Johnson is no different. And with his roles on both offense and defense in high school, Johnson plays the ball very well when it is in the air.
Here are three clips from Johnson's junior film that highlight his ball skills:
- Play one: Lined up at the top of the screen to the left of the field. Johnson presses the receiver off the line then flips his hips to run with him up the sideline. Once the ball is in the air Johnson goes up above the receiver and high points the ball for an interception.
- Play two: To the bottom of the screen, right of the field. Johnson presses the wide receiver and stays on his hip during the whole slant route. Once the ball is on the way he undercuts the route and intercepts the pass.
- Play three: Bottom of the screen to the right of the field. He plays his receiver off the line but once he sees the ball in the air Johnson breaks on it and intercepts it on the way to the endzone.
Johnson has the ability to read the wide receiver and the ball then once it is in the air he is very talented at either breaking up the pass or bringing it all the way in for a turnover.
Given that Johnson was one of Ohio State's highest-ranked defensive backs in recent years, he will come in with high expectations. But he has all the ability to live up to them and contribute early in his Buckeye career.