January 8, 2013

Does UGA still lead for Johnson?

When long time Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner left to take the same position at his alma mater, Auburn, last month, many felt that the Bulldogs would slip with some of their top targets on the defensive line.

That, however, wasn't the case for Hutchinson Community College (Hutchinson, Kan.) defensive tackle Toby Johnson.

Johnson told UGASports the night that the news of Garner's departure broke that the Bulldogs still led for his services.

Now that it appears Georgia has a new coach in place, former Mississippi State defensive line coach and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, it happens to be a guy that Johnson already knows quite well due to the fact that Wilson was recruiting Johnson for MSU.

"Coach Wilson is a pretty good guy," said Johnson. "He's a family guy. I think he's a guy that is a player's coach."

Johnson says that Wilson is one of the main reasons he is considering Mississippi State, and the new UGA assistant has a solid reputation for putting players in the NFL.

"The one guy that everyone knows about is Fletcher (Cox), but he has put a lot more cats in the league," he said. "I haven't got a chance to really be around him a lot, but from what know of him, he is a pretty straight-up dude."

After his official visit to UGA early last month, Johnson named Georgia as his leader.

Now that a number of schools have turned up the heat, is that still the case?

"Georgia is still my top school. I've been talking to Coach (Todd) Grantham. He's been letting me know they whole situation on everything," said Johnson. "I think him and Coach Wilson are supposed to come out here next week. I'm not really trying to make any changes or choices right now until I visit other schools. Right now I'm leaving everything like it is, so Georgia is still on top."

The star JUCO has already taken visits to Georgia and Oklahoma, and will now take the rest of his officials in January before deciding.

The trip from Kansas to Georgia is a long one, but as a Peach State native, Johnson says that he hopes to visit the UGA campus again before Signing Day, but his main priority is to get his academics in order.

"I probably will (visit Georgia before Signing Day). I hope so. But right now I'm trying to get some school work and stuff figured out before I do anything," said Johnson when asked if he would get a chance to visit Athens before he signs. "I only have one core class left and it is public speaking. After that, I am pretty much out of here. I have a couple of electives I have to take to get credits but that is pretty much it."

One thing to keep an eye on with Johnson is the ACL injury he sustained in November that forced him to have surgery shortly thereafter.

Johnson knows that he has a long way to go, but says that he is making strides on a daily basis.

"The knee is doing real good," he said. "Rehab has been going great. It has been a big improvement everyday and the way things are going, it looks like I will be ready when the season starts."

Despite that injury and the fact that Georgia is his leader, Johnson has been pursued heavily by a number of schools, and some schools that weren't big contenders before are now making a move.

"Auburn," said Johnson when asked what schools are challenging Georgia for that top spot. "Kentucky is trying to come back in. Oklahoma and Mississippi State are in it too. That is pretty much it right now."

One thing that the Tigers' have on their side is the fact that Johnson's teammate at Hutchinson, defensive tackle Ben

Bradley, pledged to Auburn on Monday.

Bradley told AuburSports on Sunday that if he chose Auburn, Johnson would do the same.Johnson isn't ruling that possibility out, but says that it isn't a sure thing either.

"The situation is that when he had committed to Tennessee, I wasn't so sure about it. I knew in my heart that I wanted to go in a couple of different directions. We sat around and though about it so much, but based on what we thought about, we said that we were going to make the best decision for us and hopefully we would meet up down the road," said Johnson when asked if he an Bradley would definitely play together at the next level. "Now there is this Auburn thing. Auburn came into the picture. We thought about it, and when he de-committed from Tennessee, Auburn jumped into the picture. When Coach Garner went over there, I already knew what time it was. Then we kind of started talking about what it would be like to play together again. It isn't definite or anything. I'd say there's a chance, but I still like Georgia. I still like Oklahoma. I still like Mississippi State, and Kentucky is trying to come into the picture."

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