Notre Dame WR target Cornelius Johnson wants to dominate for region at The Opening

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

FRISCO, Texas — Cornelius Johnson doesn’t have any New England neighbors with him at The Opening Finals.

The 6-foot-3, 197-pound wide receiver is the only recruit from any of the six states in the region, as designated by the U.S. Census.

Johnson, a rising senior at Greenwich (Conn.) Brunswick School, doesn’t come from an area known for producing top football talent. 247Sports rates only four 2019 recruits from Connecticut as four-star recruits.

But Johnson wants to prove he belongs at Nike’s annual gathering of the top recruits in the country. This year The Opening Finals are being held at The Star, dubbed as Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters.

“I’m repping for my state, Connecticut, really the whole New England area,” Johnson said. “But also, just doing the best I can do, dominating as a receiver, is really all you can ask for.”

The Irish are in the market for a dominant wide receiver in the 2019 class. That’s why Notre Dame extended Johnson an offer when he visited for a junior day back in March.

“I loved the visit,” Johnson said. “I liked the receivers coach (DelVaughn Alexander) there and the whole atmosphere. They’re definitely in my top five area for sure.”

Notre Dame has a little help in recruiting Johnson with 2020 quarterback commit Drew Pyne. The two attend schools roughly 30 minutes apart with Pyne at New Canaan (Conn.) High.

“He’s been one of my best friends since like middle school,” Johnson said. “We talk. It’s really cool that he’s committed. I’m proud of him for his commitment and decision. It’s cool to have him literally a 20-minute drive away from me. I can talk to him and even throw with him sometimes.”

But the Irish have yet to nail down a commitment from a 2019 quarterback. Three-star recruit Brendon Clark could announce a decision in the coming week, but Johnson said he hasn’t worried too much about Notre Dame’s quarterback recruiting.

“I know there will be a good quarterback there,” Johnson said. “That’s not necessarily the highest of my concerns right now.”

It helps that Johnson has confidence in Pyne, who’s not afraid to give his own recruiting pitch for the Irish.

“He’s just telling me everything about Notre Dame and how he likes it,” Johnson said. “Obviously, he’s trying to get me there. We’re friends, I want our friendship to continue. He’s not pressuring me too crazy.”

Johnson identified Stanford, Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama and Michigan as the schools pushing the hardest for him. He visited Stanford in May, Michigan in April and Penn State in February. He has yet to make a visit to Alabama.

When Johnson finalizes a top five later this summer, he said he likely will schedule official visits to each of those schools. He hopes to settle on a commitment decision by December.

The Irish are on the short list of programs that could receive another visit from Johnson.

“If I go back to Notre Dame, I’ll probably go for a game and see the game-day experience,” Johnson said. “Then sort of get to know the players more. Because when I went it was a junior day, so I didn’t necessarily get to see any of the players socially, so get to interact with them and spend the night to get the whole vibe.”

Johnson’s familiarity with Notre Dame mostly comes through Alexander. Johnson said the two keep in contact regularly, and he likes Alexander’s philosophy as a coach.

Notre Dame recognized Johnson’s talent a little bit earlier than the other schools pushing hard for him. Michigan, Penn State, Stanford and Alabama all offered Johnson after the Irish.

Still Rivals and 247Sports haven’t come close to an agreement on the projection for Johnson. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 38 wide receiver in the 2019 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 60 wide receiver.

Organizers of The Opening Finals like him a bit better, as Johnson made the roster with 30 other wideouts. He ran precise routes on Saturday and showed that his size is legitimate. That’s why the Irish pursued him in the first place.

“They’ve said that they need bigger receivers in terms of length,” Johnson said. “I would fit in there in that sense as an outside receiver.”

Johnson will find out if he fits in with the best wide receivers in the country by the end of The Opening Finals on Tuesday.

“I’ve been working out and training and focusing on my craft,” Johnson said, “so I’m just trusting myself, knowing what I can do and coming out here and competing against the best.”

Wide receiver Cornelius Johnson, a 2019 recruit, will make an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend.
Notre Dame wide receiver target Cornelius Johnson received his spot at The Opening Finals following a strong performance at The Opening Regional in New Jersey.