Syracuse grabbed its second wide receiver commit from the class of 2017 on Tuesday, when three-star recruit Nykeim Johnson announced his intention to join the Orange.
The commitment gives SU a pair of 2017 wideouts named Johnson, after Sharod became the fourth member of the school’s recruiting class in April.
Dino Babers and the Syracuse coaching staff watched the Washington, D.C. product work out at the program’s camp at SU over the weekend, and, when they liked what they saw, wasted no time with Johnson, offering him on Monday.
“It just felt like my second home,” Johnson told Scout.com. “I went up [to Syracuse], and I really vibed with the coaches and a lot of the players.”
In a video recently posted on Twitter, Bleacher Report dubbed Johnson “Tavon Austin 2.0,” and it’s not hard to see why. He checks in at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, and projects to man the slot in college.
Johnson possesses blazing speed, and put it on full display at The Opening in the nation’s capital, running a 4.42 40-yard dash. He’ll be an orange blur on the Carrier Dome turf, and in Dino Babers’ fast-paced scheme, the lightning-quick slot machine should strike fear in the hearts of every defensive coordinator in the ACC.
“Some of the players were telling me everything is going to be quick, everything is going to be fast,” Johnson said. “So they are trying to recruit guys that are very fast.”
That Bleacher Report video also christened Johnson the “biggest sleeper of 2017,” with Michael Felder, one of the site’s college football analysts, saying Johnson is “always open.”
Seconds into Johnson’s highlight tape, his acceleration immediately jumps off the screen. His best skill may be returning kicks and punts, and he often utilizes an interesting (and effective) technique: he stands a few feet behind the spot where the ball will land, and charges in at the last second to field it with a running start — almost like a baseball outfielder looking to gun down a tagging runner. Johnson shoots through creases in the kicking team’s coverage, and finds open field in the blink of an eye.
On offense, Johnson works the middle of the field, and his best route appears to be the slant. He can also take the handoff on a wide receiver reverse and score from anywhere on the field.
Johnson sort of overlaps with a few of the receivers on Syracuse’s roster. Brisley Estime is 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, so he’s nearly identical to Johnson in terms of size, but Estime is more of an outside receiver. Erv Phillips is a couple inches taller, and currently sits as the presumed starting slot receiver, so Johnson may not see a ton of playing time as a freshman. Steve Ishmael is locked in as the number one option on the perimeter.
But Johnson’s combination of speed and quickness is overwhelming, and it could allow him to develop into a star for the Orange.