Penn State continues to pick up key pieces for its 2015 recruiting class under the direction of first-year head coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions landed dynamic New Jersey athlete Juwan Johnson Sunday during his unofficial visit to Happy Valley, according to NJ.com reporter .
The 6'4", 200-pound prospect saw his recruitment gain steam in recent weeks. Offers from Michigan State, Ohio State and Alabama arrived in succession, but Johnson just felt right at Penn State.
“It was basically because I had chemistry with the coaches from the start," he told NJ.com. "From the time I stepped on campus it felt like I was at home, that I should be here.”
Johnson joined the program's rapidly expanding class before departing campus Sunday. He is the eighth prospect to commit to Penn State since Feb. 15, maintaining momentum for a new regime.
“It started about January when the new staff came in,” Johnson said. “If you'd asked me if I wanted to go to Penn State last year, I would have probably said no, but the new staff really felt fresh and I wanted to be a part of it."
The 4-star recruit is rated the nation's No. 13 athlete and New Jersey's No. 2 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings. He enjoyed another strong season at Glassboro High School (Glassboro, N.J.) as a junior.
Johnson, who is capable of contributing at receiver or safety in college, caught 26 passes for 421 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. He plays in a run-heavy offensive attack that produced a pair of current Big Ten Conference running backs in Corey Clement (Wisconsin) and Paul James (Rutgers).
The playmaker picked Penn State from an offer sheet that also included North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Virginia. Despite an escalating recruitment, Johnson was comfortable making the call at this stage.
“I felt needed, anybody can say this or that. What [Penn State is] telling me is fact, true things that can help me," he said. "Getting me playing time, but also academics and helping me be a better person."
The Lions land a versatile weapon who is still growing into a massive physical frame. He could ultimately end up in the 6'6" range, presenting serious potential in the passing game.
Johnson dominates in man-to-man coverage, using his height and leaping ability to beat defenders in battles for the ball. He's a long strider who glides downfield and presents an easily identifiable target for his quarterback.
Offensive talents are likely to solidify his fate as a receiver at the next level, but Johnson also looks comfortable as a defensive back. He's most effective in the box, where he uses length and athleticism to guard the perimeter and provides outstanding intermediate support during pass plays.
Wide receiver is certainly the first option at Penn State, but safety is a solid fallback position.
With the latest pledge, Franklin continues the team's recruiting success in the Garden State. His first class with the Lions featured three players from Southern New Jersey, where Johnson resides.
Though Johnson has only known the current Penn State coaching staff since January, he's confident successful times are ahead for a program rocked by scandal less than three years ago.
"They have a plan and know what they're doing," Johnson said. "They can make it happen. The new offense they're bringing in sounds too good to be true. I want to be a part of it so we can make history."
His commitment pushed Penn State to No. 5 in 247Sports' national recruiting rankings, eight slots ahead of any Big Ten opponent (Nebraska).
All recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.