The BCS and all the bowl trophies. The Heisman Trophies. The SEC trophies.
No one could fault Alabama linebacker commitment Gary Johnson for pointing out the recent hardware. That’s what the four-star junior college recruit said were the biggest differences in back-to-back trips over the last few days to UGA and Alabama.
Not quite a gulf. Yet definitely noticeable.
“The only thing I thought was different between the two was obviously the championship trophies and the bowl trophies and the Heisman Trophies and those Heisman players that have went on to the NFL after that,” Johnson said. “Nothing else just jumped out that grabbed my attention as the main differences between the two schools aside from that.”
The Heisman scoreboard actually reads 2-2 between those two programs, but perception can skew reality. Frank Sinkwich in 1942 doesn’t reach most players. Even a recruit like Johnson who has a decided appreciation for NFL legend Lawrence Taylor.
Taylor is old school to him. Sinkwich, sadly, is more like the Mesozoic Era to a prospect who graduated high school in 2015. The speedy 6-foot-1, 215-pounder had some good and average things to say about his UGA visit.
Perhaps the chief takeaway was he wanted to make the trip for several reasons. None of those was the fact he’s known as “G-Man” among his peers. He remains committed to Alabama, but took a good look at UGA because:
- He now considers himself a Georgia boy
- His mother lives in Atlanta and it would be closer for her and his aunt to watch him play
- UGA is one of his Top 10 schools
Johnson got some face time with coach Kirby Smart on the UGA visit.
“He said he liked my athleticism and my speed,” Johnson said. “Those were my key factors. I can strike guys. I can cover guys. I can fit right into their defenses.”
Yet when he summed up the visit it didn’t sound like anything to fire off tweets about.
“The Georgia visit was alright,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t say it changed anything for me.”
But then he kept talking. His interest level was a bit greater when he described walking out on the field at Sanford Stadium.
“I felt like that would be a place I could go and play at,” Johnson said. “I feel like I would fit right into their program and their scheme.”
He said the athletic dorms at UGA were “very exciting” and circled back around to Sanford Stadium.
“That field was something, you know,” Johnson said. “I could see myself playing on that field because I am from Georgia. I could see myself playing there in the red and black.”
But then he stopped short of saying UGA would likely earn an official visit.
“I honestly don’t know because I feel like maybe I might get another offer from a different program,” Johnson said. “I really haven’t sat down and thought about the schools I will take an official visit to.”
He aims to major in physical education and minor in business. Which schools set up the best for him academically and athletically?
“The University of Alabama,” Johnson said. “Then Georgia as well. They have great programs like that and have sent a lot of guys to the league.”
Johnson has three years to play two seasons once he graduates from Dodge City Community College in Kansas. He currently plans to enroll in January upon graduation in December.
He also said he was “70 percent committed to Alabama” at this time, but that number was not affected by the UGA visit.
“I still have to take trips to visit other places to give them the opportunity to show me what they have that Alabama might not have or what about their program is better than Alabama’s program,” Johnson said.
Alabama was his “dream school” growing up. How does the Tide feel about him looking around?
“They just said they hope I stick to it and if I don’t, then that’s fine,” Johnson said. “Just make sure I make the right decision on where I want to be and my future playing football.”
Johnson feels Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Baylor and Arizona State are recruiting him the hardest. He’s an extremely fast linebacker who could likely clock 4.4 second times in the 40 with regularity. He said he had been hand-timed at 4.28 seconds in the 40. That’s a stout showing to wrap the brain around.
He had 135 tackles in 12 games last fall for the Conquistadors. Johnson considers himself a dual-threat linebacker. That’s a nice turn of a phrase and a nod to what he hears from recruiters.
“They really all just say the same thing,” Johnson said. “They like my speed and my athletic ability to strike running backs and cover guys in open space. They all say they really can’t find linebackers who can do both those things. That’s why they don’t come off the field. They say it is better for them that way. They won’t have to send guys on and off the field when they have one guy who can do both.”
Perhaps the most fascinating part about his recruiting story is the winding road to junior college ball. He said he wouldn’t have earned an SEC offer after his senior year of high school with great grades, but he’s made great strides and ratcheted up his work ethic since then.
— I Hate QB's & RB's‼️ (@_GaryJohnson) May 20, 2016
Roll Tide ?⚪️⚫️? really enjoyed my visit ‼️ pic.twitter.com/6lOIbp7Fi5
— I Hate QB's & RB's‼️ (@_GaryJohnson) May 23, 2016
He’s also never been to an SEC game. The biggest college game he has seen was at Jacksonville State in Alabama.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.