SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months

Florida Atlantic lands ex-Penn State QB Michael Johnson

Reese Furlow
Special to The Post
FAU coach Willie Taggart, shown during the Texas-San Antonio game in October, said he had never experienced a recruiting year like 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida Atlantic may have found its future quarterback, as dual-threat Michael Johnson Jr. announced Wednesday that he is transferring from Penn State to the Owls.

Johnson was a 4-star recruit from Sheldon (Oregon) High School before joining the Nittany Lions in 2019. He entered the transfer portal in June and will have four years of eligibility after redshirting last year.

Johnson, who passed for 5,565 yards and 69 touchdowns in four years in high school, will give FAU coach Willie Taggart another candidate to compete with Nick Tronti and Javion Posey, who shared the job in 2020, next season.

While Johnson's announcement was the big news Wednesday, FAU hopes 13 is a lucky number after inking a baker's dozen on the first day of the early signing period.

The Owls came away with three defensive ends, three offensive linemen, two tight ends, and one receiver, cornerback, linebacker, running back and safety.

“Busy day,” Taggart said of his second class at the school. “Got some new Owls on board. Been a good day for the Owls.

“Those 13 are the ones that we planned on signing … We got some needs filled, and plan on filling the rest of them the next signing class" in February.

The biggest name among the recruits was tight end William Ford from St. Paul High School in North Carolina. Ford received offers from North Carolina State and Boston College but decided to sign with the Owls after re-opening his recruitment earlier this month.

Ford finished with 17 receptions for 351 yards and two touchdowns in 2019, and also had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

“After talking with him and his parents, this is where he wanted to be,” Taggart said. “That was a great feeling to get that one after what happened" with his recruitment becoming open again.

Taggart said recruiting during the pandemic was a tough process, one he has never been through in his 21-year coaching career. Talking with prospective players had to be done through phone calls and Zoom meetings.

“Everything you’re doing, for the most part, you’re relying off the film,” he said. “You don’t get to meet their family members and everything that plays a big part in the recruiting process. It’s different. Makes it a little tougher now with not having those evaluation times and getting those kids on campus.”

Here are three takeaways from the Owls' signings:

The first of many. Defensive end Courtney McBride was the first player to sign with the Owls. The Georgia native said he signed because of FAU's persistence and because of how much he will grow at the school.

“I got calls, facetimes, and text messages every day,” he told FAU Owl's Nest. “Coach Taggart and I discussed how important it is I grow as a man at FAU and how I need to carry myself every day. There are a lot of opportunities outside of football in Boca.”

In 2019, he finished with 22 tackles and 9.5 sacks, which earned him Defensive Player of the Year in his region. This past season, he had 23 tackles and 3.5 sacks

Tight ends to the rescue. The Owls struggled all season with production from their tight ends. Logan Peterson and Michael Irvin II combined for 30 yards on two receptions and one touchdown through eight games.

Besides Ford, the Owls are also bringing in Jacob Pasley from Sebring High School. The 6-6, 235-pound tight end is known for his blocking ability, but he's no stranger to catching passes. He finished his senior year with 137 yards on 15 receptions in four games.

“I’m excited about the tight ends coming in,” Taggart said.

Big men up front. The Owls came away with six linemen Wednesday morning. Defensive ends Julius Barfield, Courtney McBride and Jacob Merrifield will join a defensive front that finished with 9.5 sacks in 2020.

Offensive linemen Jaden and Jordan Sandlin and Anthony Earle will join a unit that allowed 18 sacks in eight games this season.