Penn St. adds Rivals250 QB Michael Johnson Jr. to 2019 Class
Penn State picked up another major piece to its Class of 2019 Wednesday when Rivals250 quarterback Michael Johnson Jr. announced via Twitter that he was joining the Nittany Lions.
Unlike many other top high school quarterbacks, Johnson looked past the fact that James Franklin and his staff had already earned a commitment from fellow four-star and New Jersey native Ta’Quan Roberson. After visiting 11 different programs over the past two years, plus accepting the fact that he was going to face stiff competition wherever he went, the Eugene, Ore., resident found the school that was right for him, even if it happened to be more than 2,500 miles from home.
“I would say that Coach Franklin and his vision for the offense and his team played a big part,” Johnson said, during an interview with Blue White Illustrated Tuesday evening. “Also, how he treats his players like his kids. That really creates a family atmosphere. He’d be like my dad away from home, which is something I really want in my coach. Also, I really like Coach Rahne. He’s young enough that he can really relate to his players and have fun, all while working hard at the same time. I feel like I can talk to him about a bunch of different things.”
Johnson earned an offer from the staff in September 2017, shortly after Franklin and his assistants could initiate conversations with players in his class. However, it wasn’t until the end of January 2018, when Penn State hired an assistant coach that his father, Oregon wide receiver coach Michael Johnson Sr., has a longstanding relationship with, that the Nittany Lions became a serious player in Johnson’s recruitment.
“I don’t think people give Coach Seider enough credit when it comes to his impact on me,” Johnson said. “When he got there, that’s when he really got on me and I trusted him right away because I’ve known him for a long time.
“So, that’s when I really started falling in love with the program and realized that this was a really good fit for me. He may be the biggest reason why I ultimately fell in love with the place. He really showed me what Penn State is all about.”
While Seider may have kickstarted Johnson’s interest in Penn State, it was his official visit, which took place June 8-9, that firmly put the Lions at the top of his list. In addition to all the meetings and tours, plus the time he got to spend with fellow Penn State commits Lance Dixon, John Dunmore and Brandon Smith, Johnson was given an opportunity to spend time with two of the team’s current quarterbacks, most notably senior Trace McSorley.
“Honestly, there’s one moment that really stands out to me when it comes to what really got me convinced that Penn State is the school for me,” he said. “When I took my visit, we went out to hang with some of the players one night and Trace McSorley really took me under his wing. Trace was a counselor at the Elite 11 Finals, which I was at. I kind of got to talk to him a little bit out there, but when it comes to really getting to know him, that happened during my visit.
“He sat down with me that night and we talked about everything, whether it was his experience, Coach Franklin, Coach Rahne and bunch of other stuff. He really just told me the straight up truth. It really got me sold on Penn State. I also have to mention Sean Clifford, too. He did a lot of the same for me that weekend. Basically, that’s when I was sold. That’s when I saw that it really is family down there.”
Throughout his recruitment, Johnson earned more than 30 scholarship offers. Florida State, Miami, N.C. State and Oregon State were the other four schools he considered down the stretch.
As an underclassmen, Johnson attended Kings Academy in Sunnyvale, Calif., before transferring to Sheldon in Eugene at the beginning of last season. Over those three seasons, Johnson has totaled 5,565 yards passing while adding another 1,878 yards rushing. He’s totaled 97 offensive touchdowns and has thrown just 15 interceptions.
Johnson is currently ranked No. 169 overall and is the sixth-ranked dual-threat passer in the Class of 2019. He plans to enroll early at Penn State