One of the most accomplished returning receivers in all of college football is South Dakota State's Cade Johnson. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder from Nebraska was an FCS All-American last year for the second season in a row and a 2019 Walter Payton Award Finalist, which is the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy. Johnson has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal, but there's a major catch for all those FBS programs who will want him: He won't be eligible this fall but could be for any leagues that move to the spring -- the MAC and Mountain West already have.
Most of the FCS leagues have called off their fall seasons and will attempt to play in the spring, which includes South Dakota State's Missouri Valley Conference. The FCS playoffs haven't officially been postponed from the fall/winter to the spring, but that's widely expected to happen. Johnson said all the changes affected his decision. He will have to graduate first to be eligible at an FBS school and Johnson won't graduate until after the fall semester.
"After a lot of prayer and thought, I decided to make this decision," Johnson said on social media. "At this point I feel like this route is the best for my future."
So, he could in theory do three things for the spring: Return to South Dakota State, transfer to an FBS program that is playing then or simply prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft – and Johnson is considered a very intriguing prospect, but not currently in the Top 100 prospects on the CBS Sports Big Board.
Last year, he had 72 receptions for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns for the Jackrabbits and the year before Johnson had 67 catches for 1,332 yards and 17 touchdowns. No returning receiver in NCAA Division I has more total yards in the past two seasons than Johnson does.
Needless to say, if the Big Ten shifts to spring football, Nebraska would in theory be hugely be after Johnson considering he grew up an hour from campus and his father Chester was a star receiver for the Huskers in the mid-1990s. Cade Johnson wasn't recruited by NU out of high school, however, because he was rated a zero-star recruit and then-coach Mike Riley's staff wasn't interested. The 2020 Huskers have lost their top wideout, JD Spielman, to a transfer.
South Dakota State was set to play Nebraska this season before the coronavirus changed everything.
"It took me a little bit to process the news," Cade Johnson said when the game was canceled. "Once I saw it on Twitter that the Big Ten actually said that, it took my breath away. I was really bummed about it."
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