[Update]: I spoke with a source close to the LSU program this morning about Johnson and the source told me that Johnson isn't going anywhere. In fact, the exact words were that the whole coaching staff would be fired if they lost the big defensive tackle. Doesn't mean that he won't take some visits, but it looks like Johnson is a top priority for the LSU program and if he does visit, nothing will likely come from it. -- GoBR --
Every couple of months or so, a top national recruit makes a comment about wanting to hear from or visit Texas. Conventional wisdom holds that many of those recruits are simply fishing for offers, simply desiring the same attention from the Longhorns that almost every other major school has shown. Most of the time, nothing comes of the statements.
So when the report surfaced that New Orleans O Perry Walker DT Anthony Johnson was planning on taking an official visit to Texas, it smacked of the type of offer-mongering that eventually leads nowhere and isn't even worth a second thought.
However, Johnson might not fall into that category. Gerry Hamilton confirmed with Johnson's head coach that his star player is indeed planning on taking an official visit to Austin. Johnson himself told Rivals national analyst Barton Simmons just a little more than a week ago that he plans on attending a camp at Texas ($) this summer, typically a necessary first step to receive a Texas offer or at least confirm that his interest in genuine.
If Quincy Russell seems flaky for having quickly reversed his initial decision to commit to Texas, then Johnson might draw outright comparisons to a player like Ahmad Dixon, known for changing his commitment like the weather changes in Texas in the spring. The talented Louisiana product first committed to Tennessee during his sophomore season before switching his commitment to LSU in December. Now, Johnson plans on taking all five official visits -- to Miami, Texas, USC, Cal, and Oklahoma -- as well as taking one or more visits to Alabama and summer visits to Miami and USC.
In his own words, Johnson's commitment to LSU is "real solid," but he's "still open" to other schools. Despite what he says, his actions indicate that his verbal to LSU is about as solid as the relatively short-lived commitment of Brandon Williams to Baylor. Longhorn fans pining for the Brookshire Royal star know how that turned out...
As a prospect, Simmons notes in the article that Johnson is a five-star candidate and his pure stats back up that assertion -- Johnson had almost 80 tackles, 21 for a loss, 16 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two recovered on his way to earning recognition as the top defensive player in the state of Louisiana as a junior. According to Johnson, he needs only seven sacks as a senior to break the state record.
At about 6-4 and 300 pounds, Johnson has the ideal frame and size for a defensive tackle. Johnson shows tremendous burst off the ball -- not only explosiveness, but an ability to time the snap count to give himself an extra little bit of edge on his opponent.
Though some of his measurables aren't outstanding -- a reported 5.27 40 and 22-inch vertical -- Johnson clearly has great football speed and plays with consistently solid pad level. His reported shuttle time is 4.3, a number that would put him among the top performers at the NFL combine not only at defnesive tackle, but also at defensive end. It doesn't exactly pass the smell test, but Johnson does have elite ability to redirect for a player of his size. Johnson plays with some violence with his hands, though he reports that he is working on using his hands more effectively. In fact, his speed is good enough to spend some time at defensive end and still get to the quarterback from the edge.
Don't worry though, Johnson isn't the second coming of Derek Johnson, miscast as a high school defensive end -- it appears he spends most of his time inside. Possessing the abiity to bull rush and to shoot gaps, Johnson has the type of frame that could easily hold 320 or more pounds at the collegiate level without compromising his athletic ability. He has the athleticism to play some three tech, but Johnson projects more as a dominant nose tackle in college with the ability to hold his ground against double teams at the point of attack, but still spend a bunch of time in the opposing backfield making plays.
Johnson's willingness to switch his commitment and desire to take visits despite his commitment to LSU probably raises some red flags for a lot of Texas fans, but if Johnson's interest is genuine, he's exactly the type of prospect that Texas should pursue at this point in the recruiting process -- it puts some pressure on Quincy Russell to decide if he wants to become a Longhorn, but there won't be any accusations of the program not taking care of in-state talent first. In essence, it's a low-risk, high-reward strategy to recruit Johnson.
There should be some more information to emerge on the level of interest between Texas and Johnson over the next several days and if he does indeed visit for a summer camp, there is a strong chance that he could receive an offer and the Longhorns could be in the mix for his services. However, if Russell makes a decision before mid-June, Texas will amost certainly shut down recruiting at the defensive tackle position. Stay tuned.