Mar. 03, 2017
Scouting USC's Lone Athlete Signee of the 2017 Class
Continuing on to USC’s second National Signing Day commitment from Hawkins High School, we come to four-star athlete Greg Johnson. Rated as the best athlete and 102nd best player in the country according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Johnson is an electric athlete with the tools to play multiple positions for the Trojans. The position he ultimately sticks at is currently unclear and will probably not be clarified until fall camp, but his unique skillset could see him carve out a solid career in cardinal and gold.
Johnson is a good all-around football player with the ability to play running back, slot receiver, cornerback, or potentially even safety. The problem will be finding a place for him as he is not an electric athlete (4.62 in the 40 yard dash) nor does he have great size (5’10” 185 lbs.). In high school, the Army All-American played running back and cornerback. Johnson could easily fit at either of those two positions in college, but his chances of early playing time at those spots would be bleak. As a result, Johnson will probably be moved around at the start of fall camp and during summer workouts so the coaching staff can find his best position.
From analyzing Johnson’s tape, it appears as though he would fit best on offense. Johnson may not have the freakish measurables of other top recruits, but he is a smart player who plays larger than his relatively small frame would indicate. With the ball in his hands, he is very elusive and stays strong in traffic where he routinely breaks multiple tackles. These skills would fit well as a potential hybrid running back/slot receiver type player.
In the short term, Johnson is likely to spend a decent chunk of time on the sidelines. Whether it be in the backfield or lined up in the slot, the Trojans have a number of talented players ready to play in either position. Johnson is also talented, but the chances of him taking snaps away from players such as Stephen Carr at running back or Trevon Sidney in the slot are unlikely at best. The Hawkins product will likely need a redshirt year before he begins making inroads towards earning significant playing time.
Unfortunately, when projecting Johnson’s career over the long-term, it is difficult to see him becoming a starter for the Trojans. His athletic limitations are concerning for a player his size, meaning he will have to rely heavily on a high football IQ and elusiveness as a ball carrier. A football player does not need to be an elite athlete to achieve success, but the task is far more difficult. Especially considering the depth USC has at the two positions Johnson is likely to end up playing, the outlook for the Hawkins product earning a starting role grows only more doubtful.
The biggest aspect Johnson has going for him is his versatility. He can catch the football and make plays with the ball in his hands—skills that do have value. That being said, it will be hard for Johnson to become a true difference maker. Johnson should not be completely written off just yet, it’s just that he has a steeper hill to climb than other players in his position. Worst-case scenario, Johnson is primarily deployed on special teams where his slightly below average speed is easily masked.
A good football player with limited athletic ability can be hard to project. There are plenty of examples of players who build off their intangibles to become fantastic college football players regardless of their limitations. At the same time, there are even more players who are unable to overcome this disadvantage and end up spending most of their college careers on the bench. Johnson could end up among either group or even in the middle, but regardless of how his career turns out, the Trojans have added another talented football player to a team that looks bound to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff next season. Johnson is unlikely to aid in these efforts in 2017, but depending on how he develops, Johnson could become a valuable contributor in later seasons.