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Northwestern lands 5-star Clemson transfer QB Hunter Johnson

Clemson’s Hunter Johnson (15) looks to pass against Miami during the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Hunter Johnson has found his new school.

A few weeks after he decided to leave Clemson, Johnson, a five-star quarterback recruit in the 2017 class, has officially signed with Northwestern as a transfer. After sitting out the 2018 campaign, Johnson will have three years of eligibility remaining with the Wildcats.

“We are ecstatic to add a player of Hunter’s caliber and character to our program,” said Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald. “He comes from an outstanding family, one we’ve had the opportunity to know for many years, and he will fit right in to the culture we continue to build here in Evanston. I’m excited for the opportunity to be his coach and look forward to him joining our football family on campus this month.”


Who is Hunter Johnson?

Johnson, a native of Brownsburg, Indiana, was rated by Rivals as the second-best pro-style quarterback recruit in the 2017 class. He appeared in seven games in 2017 as a true freshman, completing 21-of-27 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception as a backup for Clemson behind Kelly Bryant.

Entering the 2018 season, Johnson was competing with Bryant and another five-star recruit, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall player in the 2018 class, enrolled early and competed throughout the spring with Bryant and Johnson. Johnson’s decision to leave Clemson made it pretty clear that Lawrence was making an early impression.

As soon as news of Johnson’s transfer became official, several outlets pointed to the Big Ten, namely Northwestern and Purdue, as potential transfer destinations. Johnson’s brother, Cole, played for Fitzgerald at Northwestern from 2013-16. The familiarity played a big part in his choice.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Wildcat family,” Johnson said. “The program that Coach Fitzgerald and his staff have built at Northwestern is phenomenal, and one my family has had the opportunity to get to know and trust. I am thankful to Coach Swinney and the Clemson family for all their support over the past year-and-a-half. My focus now is on doing everything in my power to help this team prepare to compete for a Big Ten West title. Go ‘Cats!”

What it means for Northwestern

This is a massive pickup for the Wildcats.

Once he is back to full health from the torn ACL suffered in the Music City Bowl, Northwestern will have 38-game starter Clayton Thorson back for his senior year with the program. After his redshirt year, Johnson will be the huge favorite to take the reins from Thorson.

Thorson, with 7,548 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career, is on the radar of NFL scouts. At No. 136 overall in the 2014 class, Thorson was one of the highest-rated recruits Fitzgerald has landed during his 13 years leading the program.

Johnson, No. 18 overall in 2017, is at another level. Since Rivals.com began rating players on the five-star system in 2002, Northwestern has never signed a five-star talent. Johnson is the second five-star transfer, however. Kyle Prater, a wide receiver who began his career at USC, finished his career with the Wildcats.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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