The Detroit News continues its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2017 with Donovan Johnson of Detroit Cass Tech at No. 5.
Donovan Johnson showed he would be a force for Detroit Cass Tech when he displayed his blazing speed at The Opening in Oregon this past summer, posting the fastest time in the 40 when he was clocked at 4.35 seconds.
Johnson, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back/cornerback, used that speed to help make him an impact player in all three phases of the game.
Johnson rushed for 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 15 yards a carry while breaking up a dozen passes and intercepting three passes from his secondary position. He also scored on three kickoff returns.
Johnson showed his big-play ability in a 43-42 comeback win over Saline in the Division 1 regional final, running for 292 yards and four TD runs of 47, 7, 80 and 71 yards. He scored on a 60-yard run in the state championship game win over Detroit Catholic Central.
Johnson, a four-star recruit, earned a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team and is No. 5 on the Blue Chip list. He plans to sign with Penn State next week as a defensive back.
“Penn State offered me early, kept in contact with me, was one of my top two teams and they were closer to home,” said Johnson, who selected Penn State over Virginia Tech. “It’s like a family there. Everybody gets along with each other, just reminds me of family.”
Johnson was offered by more than a dozen schools, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oregon, Arizona and Missouri.
No doubt, the state championship game was special for Johnson, who helped Cass Tech earn a one-sided 49-20 win over No. 3 Catholic Central to finish 14-0. Against Catholic Central, he rushed for 89 yards on six carries, including the 60-yard TD run to give the Technicians a 21-14 second-quarter lead, and a 2-yard run midway through the third to open up a 42-14 cushion.
Still, Johnson's career-best 292-yard performance against Saline was his highlight.
“The other team kept scoring and I felt like it was on me to help my team out,” said Johnson of the shootout in Saline. “Every time I got the ball I wanted a touchdown, didn’t want to just settle for a first down.”
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher was impressed with Johnson, saying after the Saline game: “We knew we had a good back in Donovan, and when you have the fastest kid in the country you have to unleash the beast, give him the ball, get him in space and let him go.”
With Cass Tech trailing 28-21 midway through the second, Johnson took a handoff, broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and then hurdled a defender down the right sideline for an 80-yard TD to pull the Technicians even.
On the first play of the second half, Johnson took a handoff and broke loose up the middle for a 71-yard TD and a 35-28 lead.
While Johnson was special on offense, cornerback is the position he’ll play with Penn State. And, Johnson had plenty of time in practice to prepare for high-caliber receivers while going up against five-star Cass Tech teammate Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is headed to Michigan.
So, where does Johnson feel he has improved?
“I feel like I’ve improved on my all-around game,” Johnson said. “I wanted to show that I’m willing to do anything for my team. I can’t wait to get up there and play at Penn State.”
Johnson will be playing with a chip on his shoulder when Penn State plays Michigan and Michigan State since both in-state schools didn’t give him an offer while tossing multiple offers to his Cass Tech teammates.
DETROIT NEWS BLUE CHIP LIST COUNTDOWN
No. 5: Donovan Johnson, DB, Detroit Cass Tech (Penn State)