Recruit Profile: WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr.
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Recruit Profile: WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr.

March 23, 2016

After more than a year off wooing him, the Nebraska Cornhuskers finally secured the commitment of Calabasas, Calif., wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. Johnson, who is the son of All-American and No. 1 draft pick Keyshawn Johnson, committed to the Huskers during an announcement video on Bleacher Report. Johnson gives Keith Williams his second wide receiver commit of the 2017 class, joining fellow 4-star prospect Jaevon McQuitty. The Cornhuskers now sit at three commits thus far in the 2017 class.

Who Else Was Interested?

Johnson had 22 FBS offers. Back in November, he trimmed his list down to a top five of Nebraska, USC, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson. As his decision date neared, it appeared that it was down to the Cornhuskers and USC. While USC pushed hard in the last 30 days to get Johnson and had the bonus of being the school where his father starred, Johnson chose the Huskers.

Eye Test

Johnson measures in at 6-1 and 195 pounds. It’s going to be fun to watch Johnson over the next few years because he has a long and athletic frame that still has plenty of room to fill out. Johnson is all arms and legs at this point and should be able to add at least 15 pounds to his frame once he enters a collegiate lifting program. One other interesting thing I noticed about Johnson was that he had very large feet for a 6-1 kid, indicating that he may not be done growing. By the time Johnson is finished growing, I would expect him to measure in at 6-2 and around 210 pounds.


1. His route-running ability and versatility. Johnson is a very adept route runner at this point as he shows good footwork in and out of his breaks and is able to make cuts without losing speed. This allows him to consistently gain separation from opposing defensive backs despite not possessing blazing speed. Johnson’s ability to run routes also makes him a very versatile target as the Calabasas coaches are able to move him all over the field to take advantage of the best possible matchup.

2. His strength. At 195 pounds you wouldn’t expect Johnson to be as strong as he is. Johnson does a tremendous job of staying low while running his route and not being knocked off his path by opposing defenders. After he catches the ball, Johnson runs with solid power and is able to consistently grind out yards after the catch. I feel that Johnson’s future will be as an intermediate target or chain-mover-type of receiver, and his strength will help him greatly in that area.

3. His ability to win 50-50 balls. Johnson caught 68 passes for 944 yards in 2015 and emerged as Tristan Gebbia’s failsafe target as a junior. Gebbia often put a lot of faith in Johnson’s ability as a pass catcher, as Johnson was put in several 50-50 situations. Johnson delivered in those situations more often than not. While he doesn’t have game-breaking speed or a big-time vertical, Johnson combines solid timing and great hands to consistently catch contested passes and move the chains.


1. His lack of elite speed. Johnson has decent speed on film, but by no means is he a burner that can take the top off the defense. Johnson is at his best when working the middle of the field, allowing him to use his route-running ability and strength to his advantage while masking his lack of speed.

2. His release off the line of scrimmage. Johnson is rarely tested by opposing defenses with press coverage, so it is tough to get a read on his ability to beat physical defensive backs. When Johnson is pressed at the line of scrimmage, he has a tendency to raise his pad level and play too high, which limits his quickness and forces him to play from a less powerful position. He will need to work on his release off the snap and work on getting defenders hands off of him to remain effective at the collegiate level.

3. His concentration on easy catches. Johnson is great at catching contested passes, as he shows solid concentration and hands to win 50-50 balls against defenders. It’s the easy passes where he can get in to trouble as his concentration drops and he tends to let the ball into his chest instead of reaching outside his frame and meeting the ball with his hands.


Huge recruiting win for Williams for a couple of reasons. The first reason this is a big-time recruiting win is that Johnson is a very good receiver in the 2017 class. While he won’t necessarily be a big-play threat, I do think he will find a niche as an intermediate, move-the-chains target that is versatile enough to line up all over the field. The second reason is that it makes Nebraska a cooler recruiting destination. Johnson not only has a famous father but also numerous connections to the top talent in the state of California, which will only help Nebraska in the long run. Great job by Williams, who has now reeled in the top two targets on Nebraska’s wide receiver wish list.

College Comparison: UCLA Wide Receiver Jordan Payton

Pro Comparison:
Former Cardinals, Ravens and 49ers Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin

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