The Hurry-Up: Michigan No Longer Leads for Five-Star CB Will Johnson, Wolverines Still in Hunt Alongside Ohio State and USC

By Zack Carpenter on January 19, 2021 at 4:30 pm
Will Johnson

The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Michigan losing ground on Johnson, who is coming off USC visit

Before I write the following, let me preface it by saying: Michigan is still very much in the race for five-star cornerback Will Johnson, the No. 8 overall player and No. 3 cornerback in America's 2022 class out of Detroit's Grosse Pointe South High School.

The Wolverines are still in the upper tier of Johnson's recruitment as one of the final three programs that have a real shot with him. But they are not sitting nearly as pretty as they once were, and Johnson told 247Sports' Sam Webb that Michigan is no longer the No. 1 option as it stands right now:

At one time the bond between the fellow five-stars (Domani Jackson) seemed to benefit Michigan the most. The Wolverines are still major players in the race, but Johnson admits that his parents’ alma mater has fallen out of the pole position. The continued on-field struggles after his mid-November visit to Ann Arbor, the coaching uncertainty that followed, and visits to other campuses combined to force a rethinking of his leaderboard. Jim Harbaugh clearly sensed that recently and made it a point to connect with the talented youngster. He offered assurances that he would be staying put in Ann Arbor, and that he’d be making the necessary changes to turn things around.

Johnson is coming off a weekend visit to SoCal where he toured USC's campus despite it being mostly a bit dead.

Eleven Warriors spoke with Will's father, Deon Johnson, about that visit and more.

“It was cool. The campus was kind of shut down when we got there, but we were able to walk around and see a lot of the buildings and the library,” Deon said. “Will is really thinking about majoring in commercial real estate, urban planning. We had a chance to see where his classes would be at. We got a chance to see the practice field.

Domani (Jackson) was able to meet us down there on campus, so he was kind of like our tour guide. He pretty much showed us around and showed us some different stuff. On Saturday, we went up to the Jacksons’ house. We had an early dinner and watched the Green Bay game. We were able to sit down with him and his parents and talk about the process with USC and how they felt about everything. They have met the DB coach, Donte Williams, personally. So they know him personally, and we were able to pick their brain about the type of coach and the type of person he is. It was a pretty good deal.”

Later this week, we will have more on Johnson's visit to USC, where Ohio State stands and some of the factors involved in his recruitment. But as it stands right now, Ohio State and USC should be considered the top two programs in Johnson's recruitment with Michigan running third.

But, again, the Wolverines are not out of it. Michigan is in a bit of limbo in Johnson's recruitment, and the No. 1 reason is the desire to wait things out to see who Michigan hires on its defensive staff.

New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald reached out to Will Johnson via text on Sunday night as they boarded their plane back to Michigan.

“He said he’s excited and that he wants William to know that they have a plan for him already with their scheme,” Deon said.

So now the waiting game is being played to see who gets hired as the Wolverines' defensive backs coach, and from there we will see if he can make up for lost time in the relationship-building department and convince Johnson that Ann Arbor is a place where he can be developed into an all-around cornerback. The prediction from me is they won't be able to do enough and that Johnson's decision comes down to Ohio State and USC. But, again, we play that waiting game to see.

Hamrick sets commit date

Four-star North Carolina outside linebacker Malaki Hamrick is down to a decision (or at least a decision date) out of a top five that includes Ohio State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State and Appalachian State. Hamrick announced on Twitter on Monday that he has selected Feb. 26 (my sister's birthday, fun fact) as his decision date:

Hamrick is listed as the No. 12 outside linebacker in the 2022 class, and the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is viewed as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker by Ohio State. 

“With my frame and abilities you could possibly be looking at the next Chase Young or maybe even better,” Hamrick told Eleven Warriors when he was offered by the Buckeyes in the summer.

If he eclipses that ceiling somehow, it's likely going to be a Chase Young of the ACC with North Carolina the current favorite for the No. 142 overall player.

Sooners offer Nelson

Malachi Nelson is a good candidate to wind up as the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the 2023 class and become a five-star prospect.

Through former Buckeye assistants Mike Yurcich and Jason Kwon, the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder out of Los Alamitos (California) High School has long been on the radar for Ohio State. Ryan Day and Co. offered him all the way back on Nov. 11, 2019 despite Nelson not even being a starter yet as a freshman.

But there was plenty to like about him, and that remains the case with the No. 6 overall player and No. 2 pro-style quarterback in 2023 continuing his run as one of the top high school passers in America.

On Monday, the Buckeyes saw another program join them in the race for Nelson, as Oklahoma became the 21st team to extend an offer, joining Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, USC and others.

With Ohio State and Oklahoma right in the top tier fighting for the reputation of QBU, Nelson's recruitment could be one of the next fun recruiting battles between the two. This was the Sooners' first quarterback offer in the 2023 class.

Will be interesting to see if Quinn Ewers' commitment in the 2022 cycle has any effect on Nelson's recruitment and if Oklahoma looks to use that pitch going forward.

View 35 Comments