The crown jewel of the 2022 recruiting class was five-star Will Johnson. According to the 247Sports composite, the Grosse Pointe (Michigan) Grosse Pointe South High School prospect was the 15th-ranked recruit in the country and the No. 1 player from Michigan last year.
Johnson picked the Wolverines over Alabama and USC, among plenty of other suitors. The maize and blue lost Vincent Gray, Dax Hill, and Brad Hawkins as starters from the College Football Playoff roster last season.
When Johnson committed to Michigan, there was plenty of hype surrounding him and a lot of people assumed he would cement himself as a starter before Week 1. But Mike Sainristil was shifted from offense to defense, and he has excelled. The Wolverines returned Gemon Green and DJ Turner, so Will Johnson has played, but he is biding his time to get that starting spot.
On Wednesday, co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale met with the media, and he talked about how healthy the true freshman is. The Wolverines plan on giving Johnson more reps during practice, which will translate into more game reps.
“Well, really, he’s healthy,” said Clinkscale. “And so, just keep stacking, keep building. I know coach talks about it all the time. So for him, it was building more reps at practice, with him being 100% healthy right now. And then he’ll continue to get more reps during the game, with those reps at practice adding it in the game, he gets more experienced, we’re able to, fix all the freshman, rookie mistakes that he would have.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson is coming off his second-best game of the season in coverage. PFF gave the five-star defensive back a 72.4 grade against the Spartans. The only game that was higher was Week 2 vs. Hawaii where Johnson had a grade of 77.5 in coverage. Clinkscale noted Johnson plays like a veteran and that Michigan will continue to give him more opportunities in games.
“But he doesn’t play like that, he plays like a vet,” said Clinkscale. “So we’re just gonna continue to give him more of those and give him the opportunity to go out there and impact the game like he’s been showing us. But I’ve been very pleased with where he’s at, and I want to continue to push him.”
Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrows were the two Michigan players assaulted by Michigan State players in the tunnel after the game last Saturday. Clinkscale was asked about their health and if they would play against Rutgers. He said it’s a day-by-day situation.
“As far as those guys playing everything like that, I know coach kind of addressed that,” Clinkscale said. “We just got to keep seeing day by day where they’ve progressed to.”
If Green can’t go against Rutgers, we would assume Johnson could get his first start. Going into Week 10, Johnson has had the 13th-most snaps on the Michigan defense (179). Clinkscale believes Johnson is ready to take on a bigger responsibility and task.
“And so, we’ve done a really good job with these young guys and just continue to feed them that medicine,” said Clinkscale. “A little bit at a time, little bit at a time until they’re ready. And I feel like he’s where he needs to be. He’s ready, he’s ready to take on a bigger task. And, I think that you guys will get a chance to see him each week and improve, increase the reps and improve his play.”