With the 2018 recruiting class signed, sealed and delivered, the Pitt football coaching staff has aggressively moved on to purse 2019 prospects. A pair of outstanding prospects from the Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT have solidly emerged onto the Panther’s recruiting radar: wide receiver Cornelius Johnson and linebacker Nick Villis.
Johnson, a tall and athletic deep ball threat, is emerging as a national recruit. He has accrued scholarship offers from a number of schools including Pitt, WVU, Virginia, Duke and Rutgers amongst others. He was named All-New England and All-Erickson Conference (offense). Most major recruiting networks currently have him ranked as a three-star recruit.
Villis is a stout, throwback, physical linebacker that will remind many fans of former Panther standout Matt Galambos. He registered 116 tackles in eight games as a junior and was subsequently named Defensive MVP for the Bruins. Nick was named All-Erickson Conference (defense). He has received a significant amount interest from Ivy League schools and but it’s only a matter of time before P5 schools are offering.
To gain perspective on Johnson and Villis, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Brunswick School head football coach Jarrett Shine.
Shine was first asked about Villis and he stated, “Nick came to us as a sophomore and we knew he had potential. He’s worked hard during the off-season, he’s gotten better every year. This past year he had a tremendous season at middle linebacker for us and had about 120 tackles, which was tremendous for us in our league. He was the anchor for our defense and really has great instincts as a middle linebacker. Great size. You look at him and he instantly passes the ‘eyeball test’ and I think this kid is going to be a force to be reckoned with next season and a very good prospect for the next level.”
Villis has a large number of P5 schools analyzing his film. Coach Shine believes that a strong performance on the summer camp circuit could lead to a number of P5 scholarship offers. “Yeah, I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. What his speed is, his change of direction is what a lot of coaches are talking about which is kind of what they want to see in person.”
“You look at him on film and he makes some plays sideline to sideline, but seeing that evaluation in person is going to be very important for him as far as though top power five schools are concerned. Ivy League and the Patriot League schools are very interested in him and I just assume that he’s going to have a few of those offers before the summer starts.”
Villis is currently 6-foot-2 ½ inches tall and weighs 235 pounds. He has the frame to comfortably play between 240 to 245 pounds.
Coach Shine was asked about his star receiver, Cornelius Johnson. “This is a kid who’s going to be a very good player at the next level. He has the speed to stretch the field downfield. He has great hands. He’s just a great kid. He’s a great leader. He leads by example. And he’s not one of those really good players that wants it to be all about him. He’s a very good team player.”
“(Cornelius) runs a good speed, I was very surprised when he went down to Duke and he ran a 4.48 forty yard dash. He’s the type of kid that I didn’t know he was that fast. And so when he ran that speed, that really opened the eyes of a lot of these major colleges and that’s why he’s getting a lot of the offers. He has great size, he’s 6-foot-3 inches tall. All of 6-foot-3 inches and 195 pounds and he’s really hitting the weight room and getting bigger, so he has a lot more room to grow.”
Coach Shine was asked if Johnson would emerge as a deep ball threat or possession receiver on the next level. He responded, “I think he’s a deep-ball threat, to be honest with you. I wouldn’t say that’s rare, but that’s hard to find from what I’ve seen over the years, so. A lot of people compared him to, and he’s not that level, in my opinion, but a lot of people compared him to Tarik Black because we played in that same league. Tarik went on to play at Michigan, but Tarik was that deep-ball guy who can stretch the field, had great hands, and Cornelius is that type of receiver and has room for improvement to get a lot better.”
Johnson is a legitimate national recruit and his offer sheet has grown exponentially.
“Duke was the very first school to offer him and that was last summer. He’s gotten quite a few offers since then. Pitt, Northwestern, Boston College, Rutgers, Virginia to name a few. There are other schools that are sticking around as well. I just assume that this is just the tip of the iceberg. He has about 10 offers and I know he’s going to get quite a few more now as well. I always tell him, it’s not just about how many offers, it’s the quantity of schools, it’s the quality of schools that, like Pitt, that are important to him.”
Pittsburgh Sports Now will be individually speaking with Johnson and Villis in the future.
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru