BY KEENAN CUMMINGS
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia landed one of the top targets remaining on the board when Edwardsville (Ill.) running back Justin Johnson pulled the trigger for the Mountaineers.
Johnson, at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, selected WVU over his other finalists California, Michigan State, Louisville, Minnesota and Washington State, in large part because of his ties to the school. The Mountaineers immediately became a serious player in the race for the versatile back once he visited to campus for a junior day event last winter to see Morgantown for himself.
The nation’s No. 248 ranked player according to Rivals.com returned to campus in early March just prior to the start of the current visit ban due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That put WVU in a good spot and things only continued to further build from there.
Running backs coach Chad Scott served as the lead recruiter for Johnson and developed a strong bond over time. Scott was the coach who was always in contact with Johnson and was able to build a connection that spanned outside football.
That comfort level with Scott, as well as the rest of the coaches, played a significant role in his decision. Those two visits to Morgantown were some of the only trips he was able to take before things were shutdown. That gave him great insight into what to expect out of the WVU football program while he had to take a leap of faith with some of the other schools.
Illinois has been a state WVU has attempted to recruit hard in recent years and was able to pluck tight end Mike O’Laughlin a few years ago. Johnson takes that another step as one of the most dynamic options that the state has to offer on the field.
Johnson becomes the second 4-star prospect to commit to the Mountaineers at the running back position behind Perry (Ohio) athlete Jaylen Anderson. The pair make for an exciting combination moving forward as the program looks to rebuild their backfield for the future.
The Mountaineers now have a total of four commitments that have been assigned four-star rankings by Rivals.com. That is the most in any single class since the 2018 cycle. Overall, WVU has secured a total of 15 commitments and is expected to take as many as eight more by the time the dust settles.
WVU didn’t win on the field over the weekend, but they certainly did off of it.