Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the recruit: Keeon Johnson

Name: Keeon Johnson
Position: WR
Hometown: Kannapolis, NC
School: A.L. Brown
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 200

24/7: 86, three stars; #92 WR, NC #24
ESPN: 77, three stars; #88 WR, NC #30, SE #306
Rivals: 5.6, three stars; #78 WR, NC #22
Scout: three stars; #63 WR

Other offers: Notre Dame, North Carolina, NC State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Minnesota, Duke, East Carolina

Mid-June brought an embarrassment of riches.  Jack English started the wave on the 12th, and in the next less-than-two-weeks, five more players jumped onboard.  English was a camp commit; the next five were players who jumped from various colors of the recruiting board rainbow to end up in orange-land.  It's the sort of thing that happens when players realize the doors are closing.  The first of those: Keeon Johnson.

As a wide receiver, and the most-recently taken one in a long series of them, Johnson is something of a luxury commitment.  But he's also the most sought-after one of the three that we have, Andre Levrone's USC offer notwithstanding.  Johnson had offers from half the ACC, which is true even including all future members.  He ended up with a top three of UVA, UNC, and Notre Dame, though in the end ND fans at least were chalking it up to a decision for UVA, and they were right.

Johnson is a big target, of the sort that we have on our roster but isn't in the playing rotation.  He stands 6'3" and will probably top out around 210-215 pounds, giving him very similar size to Miles Gooch.  Gooch might be playing more if Jake McGee wasn't basically playing his role.  In any case, there's a major lack of playable size among the receiving corps.  Especially on the outside.

That's where Johnson will end up.  He's got decent wheels, but not the explosive phone-booth athleticism required for the slot.  This isn't to say that Johnson is in line for immediate playing time, though; with the glut of wide receivers in the system, it'd take a supreme talent to leapfrog all of it.  And size alone isn't going to earn playing time, otherwise we'd be seeing a ton of Gooch.  Johnson is very, very likely to redshirt.

Injury troubles only increase that likelihood.  He had a nagging but not serious hip issue in the spring, and has sat out the last few weeks with turf toe.  There's also a lot of refinement to be done in his game, and he needs time in the weight room.  ESPN paints a picture of a guy who has a whole bunch of upside but needs major work to reach it; they note they "need to see more physical play to believe he will translate into a good blocker at the next level."  They're not the only ones; a Domer blogger corroborates the assessment by saying, "I’m not sure how physical he is, or really wants to be, on the field. He’s a decent blocker but not as aggressive as a player his size could be."

Most coaches aren't as militant about wide receiver blocking as Paul Johnson, but they'll still tell you this: you don't block, you don't play.  Johnson's redshirt year will be spent in the weight room working on that.  After that - well, there still isn't going to be a ton of room just yet.  There's little doubt that the current crop of sophomores is the main wide receiver group for the foreseeable future, and what time they don't get will probably go to guys like Adrian Gamble and Canaan Severin, who've already seen the field.  Johnson has excellent tools at his disposal, though: size, good hands, solid route-running skills, and I can see a career trajectory similar to E.J. Scott's.  It's very enjoyable this season watching Scott come into his own as a player and really carve out a place for himself after a few years of apprenticeship, and Keeon Johnson ought to be able to do the same.

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