To quote warrior, philosopher John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
A plan, my friends, came together in Manhattan, Kansas today. Every K-State fan with even a passing interest in sports already knows this part, but I’ll go through the formalities for the sake of tradition.
Avery Johnson, a 4*, 6’2, 175 pound quarterback out of Maize High School, in Maize, Kansas (a suburb of Wichita) gave Kansas State his verbal commitment for the 2023 recruiting class.
The moment Avery Johnson picked Kansas State pic.twitter.com/brpLMNVL3R— Drew Galloway (@galloway__drew) July 5, 2022
Rivals considers Johnson a 4* prospect (5.8, mid-tier 4*), the best player in Kansas for the 2023 class, and the 3rd best dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation. He holds offers from: Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, TCU, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington State, and Wisconsin. In the end, Kansas State, Washington, and Oregon hats were on the table before Johnson announced his intentions to stay home and play for K-State.
Johnson is a true dual-threat quarterback. He’s an elite athlete and good quarterback at this point in his football career, and has the potential to be an elite athlete and elite quarterback.
What stands out to me the most (and there is plenty that stands out) is Johnson’s confidence. He’s cool, calm, and collected at all times, and knows he is the best player on the field. You can see this in his highlights, but it’s especially apparent if you watch some of his full games. When he has a receiver open, he takes his time and delivers a catchable ball. When he gets into the open field, he takes his time, sets up defenders and then leaves them in the dust. He does things on his time, which is what I like to see in a quarterback.
Physically, he has a slight build at 6’2”, 170ish, and will need to put on weight in order to hold up in college football. He can make all the throws, but could use a little more oomph on some of his deep balls. He’s got a smooth throwing motion, and I’m guessing the downfield power will come with added strength. He throws darts on intermediate routes and shows the ability to take something off and throw a catchable ball on short routes.
He’s an electric athlete, and would be a D1 (or whatever we are calling the top level of college football today) wide receiver or defensive back if he didn’t play quarterback. He’s not just fast for a quarterback, he’s fast for a football player. He makes smooth cuts and can juke a defender in the open field without breaking stride. He’s quick when he needs to be quick, but has the ability to lengthen his stride and build long speed, which allows him to outrun pursuit angles.
It’s rare that you find a 4* quarterback, in your back yard, that fits your offense to perfection. Things fell perfectly into place for both Johnson and the Wildcats. His strengths mesh well, and whatever weaknesses he has (accuracy mostly) should be masked in the K-State offense while he works on becoming a polished college quarterback. Collin Klein’s offense should give him easy reads on RPO’s and allow him to play instinctually. He won’t be a guy that sits back in the pocket, surveys the field, and dumps the ball off to the 4th option...at least early in his career.
Klein will have to be careful not to overuse him in the run game, and Johnson will have to understand when to run, when to eat the ball, and when to get out of bounds or on the turf to avoid the big hit. You probably want to rip the Quarterback ISO page out of the playbook until he cracks 200 pounds.
I have no idea what the quarterback room will look like when he steps on campus and starts preparing for the 2023. If he doesn’t win the starting job straight out, I think you’ll see Klein utilize his athletic ability in a package. He’s too explosive to stand around on the sidelines all game, even if he’s not the starter (which he very well could be).
This is a bit sacrilegious, but his high school film reminds me a little of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.
Don’t forget, outside of his Johnny Football persona (or maybe he is Johnny Football?) Manziel was one of the most exciting players in the history of college football. I see glimpses of that in Avery. Every now and then he makes a play that he absolutely shouldn’t make, or even attempt, and makes it look easy. He’s a natural playmaker and a competitor that looks for a way to win every play.
The most important thing about landing Avery Johnson, is Avery Johnson’s ability to play football.
It’s not his ability to recruit. It’s not the symbolism of a high profile athlete choosing Kansas State. It’s his ability between the lines.
From all accounts, he’s a charismatic leader, and other elite athletes enjoy his company. I think that comes from the confidence I mentioned earlier. He carries himself like the best player on every field he steps onto (to be fair, he’s that player on almost every field he steps onto) and that’s what you want to see from your quarterback. That should help in recruiting.
According to Derek Young at K-StateOnline, he is already working to secure two 4* wide receiver recruits in Lee’s Summit, MO receiver Joshua Manning and Mesa, Arizona receiver Ja’Kobi Lane. If you add Manning and Lane to current offensive commits Dylan Edwards, Joe Jackson, Andre Davis, and Will Anciaux, you might have the best offensive recruiting class in K-State history. As of now, I think Manning and Lane are both heading to Manhattan.
If you’ve ever wondered “what if K-State, but with elite skill position players?” you may get the answer to your question in a few seasons.
Josh Manning was originally scheduled to announce his commitment on July 3rd, but he pushed that back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump on board sooner, rather than later.
I tend to err on the side of optimism, but even I didn’t anticipate this sort of class for Kansas State. The last step on Coach Klieman’s ladder to success at K-State is consistent recruiting on offense, and while one class certainly doesn’t mean he’s consistent...you can’t be consistent without that first class.