It turns out that an injury that forced Chasen Johnson to miss his sophomore season at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida changed the entire trajectory of his football career.
Johnson — a recent Pitt cornerback commit — had been playing wide receiver, entered his sophomore receiver as a receiver and planned to continue being a receiver. But Seminole head coach Karl Calhoun thought that Johnson might be better suited on the defensive side of the ball. Why not just try playing cornerback?
So, Calhoun took his idea to Johnson. And Johnson was all ears.
“He took it spot on,” Calhoun told PSN. “He didn’t bat an eye, didn’t complain and he listened to what we had to say about what we thought we could do for him for his future. He was a little nervous at first about how he could be at the position, but he got in and it was all good.”
Johnson made the switch to cornerback ahead of his junior season at Seminole, and it paid off. He recorded two tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, allowed just five completions and blocked eight(!) kicks. And he scored a couple of touchdowns, too.
It led to offers from the likes of Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, FAU, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon State, Pitt, South Carolina, Troy, UCF, West Virginia and Western Michigan.
And after an official visit to Pitt over the weekend, Johnson committed to Pitt. So, when you ask Calhoun, what is Pitt getting in Johnson? It all starts with a great person — a role model for the younger kids.
“He’s kinda quiet and reserved but definitely opens up around people he’s comfortable with,” Calhoun said. “He’s a grinder, works hard, great listener, overall just a great kid. He runs track. He’s just a good kid. I don’t think you could find a person with anything bad to say about Chasen Johnson.”
He isn’t a vocal leader as one might think, but the younger players at Seminole look up to him nonetheless. His work ethic, the way he carries himself on and off the football field, is second to none. He’s benching nearly 300 pounds, cleaning nearly 300 pounds and squatting nearly 500 pounds — at a sturdy 6-foot-1, 185 pounds.
If you ask Calhoun, pound for pound, Johnson is one of the strongest kids on the team. And he works very, very hard. If Calhoun has seen one area of growth from Johnson over the last couple of seasons, it’s how he’s bought into what the coaching staff has asked of him.
But he’s certainly grown immensely as a cornerback, too — in just one season.
“He’s an athletic freak,” Calhoun said. “The kid has 4.4 laser speed, he’s really, really long, he has great ball skills, he goes up there and attacks the ball. And I think his athleticism and his speed puts him in the position to make those types of plays. No one is gonna outrun him. He gets his hand in and deflects a lot of balls, he punches the ball out and I think he’s very physical.”
And where some cornerbacks are content to stay in the secondary, Calhoun said that Johnson’s ability to get off blocks and pursue the football is as good as he’s ever seen. And as he continues to adapt to cornerback as a senior at Seminole, Calhoun is excited for Johnson’s short-term — and long-term — future.
“I expect him to get in (to Pitt) and fight for that rotation right away,” Calhoun said. “He’s a guy that’s gonna come in as a true freshman and I think his athletics and his size already translate to being an on-the-field corner right now. He’s a legit 6-1, 185.”
Chasen Johnson is one of five defensive back commitments in the class of 2024 so far, joining three-star Allen Bryant (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Davion Pritchard (Youngstown, Ohio), Nigel Maynard (Smyrna, Tennessee) and Tayshawn Banks (Cincinnati, Ohio).