Hometown (High School): Indianapolis, IN (North Central)
247 Composite Ranking: 3-STARS, 47TH-RANKED CORNERBACK
Other Offers: Notre Dame, LSU, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois, Duke, Cincinnati, and many more
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) February 7, 2018
He was a four-star recruit when he committed, though that has since been downgraded to three stars in the intervening four months (something we're absolutely certain would have happened all the same if he had chosen Notre Dame instead.........). Either way, there's a lot to like about Johnson as a prospect — he's extremely disruptive on the field in all phases of the game, and his aggressiveness fits perfectly in Phil Parker's island-based defense. Dare we say, he even looks Desmond King-ish at times. Once he adds a few pounds, look out.
It's hard to think of a better story than Johnson's in this recruiting class. In his commitment tweet, he focused on his single mother for all the work she did raising him, and he made his commitment on her birthday — August 22. These days, recruits have been pretty well conditioned to give praise where it's due when they make their announcements, and that's the way it should be. Johnson's message was especially thoughtful, and well above what would be expected of him. If he keeps that head on his shoulders through his years in Iowa City, he'll be a good one.
With the depth chart at cornerback heavily backloaded with freshmen who redshirted in 2017, it'll be an uphill battle for Johnson to get on the field right away — especially as someone who could stand the extra year to get up into the 185-pound range. But after that, there really aren't a whole lot of guys on that depth chart who definitively project better than Johnson does. Matt Hankins emerged as the best of the lot of true freshmen in 2017, but Manny Rugamba's precipitous rise and fall as a freshman and sophomore proved the unreliability of projecting out of a few games in a cornerback's first year. There'll be some heavy competition over the next couple years, but if Johnson puts in that work and gets prepared for the college game, he could be the next in a long, long line of stellar Hawkeye cornerbacks.
[Quick historical note: If this recruit's name sounds familiar, remember that he won't even be the first D.J. Johnson to play cornerback for Kirk Ferentz. The first D.J. Johnson was a Hayden Fry recruit who blossomed under Ferentz, culminating in a starting spot on the loaded 2002 defense, 15 pass breakups (a Ferentz-era record until B.J. Lowery topped it in 2013) and a nod as one of 12 co-MVPs of that Orange Bowl squad. In retrospect, the first D.J. Johnson should have been our cue that Ferentz and Phil Parker know a thing or two about developing cornerbacks.]