The Texas Longhorns have officially landed the heir apparent to Gary Johnson by securing the pledge of another speedy linebacker from a junior college, as Fullerton College product Caleb Johnson signed to head coach Tom Herman’s program on Wednesday after committing on Monday over a final group featuring Oregon, Colorado, and Arkansas.
Despite the delay in his decision, Johnson had been trending to Texas for quite some time.
A former Iowa State pledge, the 6’1, 215-pounder originally committed to the Cyclones in July, but kept his options open, making plans to visit Arkansas for an official visit in late October, and eventually decommitting from Matt Campbell’s ball club in mid-October. Just days later on Oct. 13, Johnson officially toured the Forty Acres for the Longhorns 23-17 win over Baylor.
From that point forward, the Longhorns had seemingly emerged as the frontrunner, owning each of his Crystal Ball projections. Arkansas welcomed Johnson for an official visit the following weekend on Oct. 20, but the Razorbacks never really emerged as a true threat to Texas. Oregon, on the other hand, loomed rather large in Johnson’s recruitment. Much like the Longhorns, the Ducks could sell immediate playing time with Kaulana Apelu graduating, and furthermore, Johnson grew up as a fan of the Oregon program.
Unsurprisingly, there was reason to believe Oregon could take control with a home run during his Nov. 30 official visit, but the momentum never really switched sides following his weekend in Eugene.
Seemingly with his mind made, Johnson then announced on Dec. 8 that he would bring his recruitment to a close on Dec. 13, and in hopes of some last-minute maintenance, Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando stopped by Fullerton College to see Johnson on Dec. 10.
But then a minor change came to pass.
The following day on Dec. 11, Johnson announced that he would no longer be committing on Dec. 13, but rather, he’d commit on Dec. 17 once he was able to officially visit Colorado over the weekend.
Of course, as we now know, the last-minute push by the Buffaloes wasn’t enough to sway things in Colorado’s favor, as Johnson became a late addition to Texas top-10 class. In doing so, the junior college product provides Texas with a potential plug-and-play starter in place of the graduating Gary Johnson — another former JUCO product with a similar, though slightly more elite skill set.
“[I’d] fit very well,” Johnson previously told Burnt Orange Nation when asked how he would fit Orlando’s defense. “I think Rover is the perfect position for me... I’m planning on starting wherever I go.”
After posting 41 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 2017, Johnson burst onto the scene as a freshman before taking a medical redshirt this season due to a labrum injury, which will allow him three years to play three seasons for the Longhorns. So the extra season of eligibility significantly increases Johnson’s overall value to the program.
The further good news? Johnson reported a 3.1 GPA on his 2017 highlights and will graduate this month, allowing him to enroll at Texas in January.
Caleb Johnson doesn’t have the elite speed of Gary Johnson, but there are some definite similarities in terms of size and skill set. Caleb Johnson plays with an apparent tenacity, and is extremely fast and extremely physical, even showing the ability to take on and defeat blockers, which Gary Johnson didn’t show on his junior college film and hasn’t shown on the field for the Longhorns.
Much like Gary Johnson, the Longhorns starting Rover whom Caleb Johnson is now the far-and-away favorite to replace, Caleb Johnson’s speed allows him to impact the game from sideline to sideline, and when he makes stops, he often does so in an imposing and forceful fashion. Furthermore, he displays impressive instincts around the line of scrimmage and great burst through gaps to make plays in the backfield.
And, in fact, Gary Johnson’s success at Texas with a similar skill set influenced Caleb Johnson’s commitment.
“Definitely, seeing his success and everything coming from JUCO, and we’re relatively the same size, that was a big factor,” Johnson told Orangebloods. “And I feel like the coaches saw him come in be one of their best players, so I feel like they have trust in JUCO players and have success at the University of Texas.”
A consensus three-star prospect, Johnson is ranked as the No. 39 junior college prospect, the No. 3 outside linebacker at that level, and the No. 7 player in California, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.