Stressing details, Cornelius Johnson striving for game day results over practice reports

·4 min read

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s players are well aware that they did not meet expectations a year ago. Or even before that.

They know they’ve been leaving a lot out on the table.

As fall camp drags on, we always hear about reports of players doing great things in practice, but often, we don’t see it translating into games. We heard Donovan Jeter lamenting how often he was spoken of as a breakout player only to not produce results on the field.

This group of Wolverines does seem determined to change that, with talk of ignoring what happened the day before and focusing only on what’s there in front of you. Jeter mentioned it last week, and this week, junior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson is saying the same thing.

“Yeah, I feel like every man has his day, but it’s all about stacking another day on top of that other day you had,” Johnson said. “You could have one good day, but something I did four of five days ago, I don’t even remember. Nobody even remembers what happened. What they’ll remember is what going on right now – you can only do something now. That’s something crazy to me.”

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But what goes into individual improvement? How does one get better on a daily basis?

For a wide receiver like Johnson, it means mastering the fundamentals, from the small details at the individual level while building it up from there.

“Sort of like our coach always tells us, man, you gotta take what’s said in the meeting room and then bring it into individual, bring it into the receiving room,” Johnson said. “Then take what you learned individual and bring that to 7-on-7, and that translates against the team, when you go 11-on-11. Bringing those details in, that’s something that’s been really helpful for me as a player and for all of us.”

Of course, there are mixed messages about what happened in 2020 — does the team intend to forget it all and move on or cross-examine it closely making sure it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes? Naturally, those things aren’t exactly mutually exclusive, but the focus is more so on moving forward than anything.

In Johnson’s eyes, he’s intent to make sure he and the offense are doing what they can to win now, but looking back, he says the team is well aware of its previous shortcomings.

“Yeah, the main focus is just to get yards and first downs,” Johnson said. “And if we’re not doing that, it’s just something that’s a big missing point. In order to be able to win games and win championships and win anything, we’ve gotta be able to produce. The production is the main point that’s gotta come with more consistency.”

That leads us to the most prescient point that Johnson made: what he and the team are doing now are just the building blocks. But construction won’t begin in earnest until Sept. 4 rolls around and the maize and blue actually face a team wearing different colors.

The old adage, oft-repeated, is that what happens on State St. is what makes for great players on Main St. But what if players are making plays in Schembechler Hall and the Al Glick Fieldhouse but not in The Big House?

It’s needed perspective and something that Johnson has.

“Going back to one of our old coaches that used to be here my freshman year, Coach Roundtree, just be shouting him out – he’d always preach to us, something about being at Michigan, a true Michigan dawg is that all this stuff here, right now – here right now we’re on State St., but what happens on State St. is different than what happens over there on Main St. We always gotta remember that coming into each day. What happens on Main St. is a lot different than what happens on State St.”

Ultimately, Johnson — like his teammates, just want to win. That’s the most important thing. In order to do that, they’re changing the culture and perspective now, so that when Western Michigan comes to town on Sept. 4, construction can begin in earnest.

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