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Jeff Sentell/SEC Country
Tyreke Johnson, the nation's No. 4 safety prospect per the 247Sports composite, aims to be a cornerback on Saturdays.

Big UGA target Tyreke Johnson says he wouldn’t mind rooming with Justin Fields

Jeff Sentell

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way an elite 4-star DB such as Tyreke Johnson might feel about the program now and add his thoughts on a big name like Justin Fields at that. 

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Tyreke Johnson never takes a rep off on the field. When he speaks, it is the exact same thing.

Johnson is engaging but mindful. He can be very candid, but also protect the information he wants to keep tucked inside his shoulder pads.

He’s been rated among the nation’s elite players for the Class of 2018 for years now.

Tyreke Johnson-UGA recruiting
Tyreke Johnson wore all-UGA gear on the final day of The Opening at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., in July. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

So he gets it. It is always a strong interview.

We had a wide-ranging discussion about all things. The NCAA early signing period. His brother De’Andre’s performance in Last Chance U: Season 2. And why he respects schools such as Florida and Georgia by showing up clad head-to-toe at a camp in their gear.

Johnson, a defensive back, told me which schools let him know he has a spot in their class no matter what.

He also said UCLA has recruited him with an all-out effort longer than any program.

Johnson said he now believes he could even make a silent commitment at some point.

“I’m not going public with it,” Johnson said on that topic. “I don’t need everyone hitting me up because I am trying to focus on myself first, but I believe in it. … I may eventually choose that route, but I haven’t chosen it right now.”

He has an adjusted timeline.

“I actually plan on making my decision before the [new] December signing day,” Johnson said. “I’m an early enrollee. I just want to make sure everything is good with that school. I want to make sure all my paperwork has gone through and stuff before I let that out to the public.”

Tyreke Johnson on Justin Fields 

This is a UGA blog. So the habitual Justin Fields question was asked. Especially since Johnson saw Fields and fellow 5-star QB Matt Corral at the Florida Friday Night Lights.

Johnson didn’t know much about Fields until this year. He said Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s role in Fields’ development is key to his rise.

“He played on Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 team, and Cam saw the potential and Cam just worked with him and got him to the point everyone could do nothing but say ‘Hey, this kid is great’ and it was on from there.”

(The following reset seems necessary: Fields and Johnson are both uncommitted prospects. They are huge parts in what UGA hopes to build for 2018, but neither has made a decision about where he will play on Saturdays.)

Fields told DawgNation that up to eight players could follow him to his chosen school. Johnson, a five-year starter from Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.) agreed that could happen.

Tyreke Johnson-UGA recruiting
Tyreke Johnson’s college decision now includes a lot more schools. UGA is no longer the primary school he’s considering in the South. (Jeff Sentell /SEC Country)

“I believe some people are going to de-commit,” Johnson said. “Justin is definitely a guy I wouldn’t mind rooming with.”

Does Johnson have any inclination where Fields is going?

“I honestly do not,” Johnson said. “I’m not one of those guys. … Because Justin and I are really good friends. I feel like that is a groupie question. If I was to ask, ‘Hey, Justin, where are you going?’ that would be a groupie question. If one of my friends asked me that, then I would call him a groupie.”

Johnson said there is a level of respect there. Elite players don’t ask one another those things. It is volunteered.

“If you don’t tell me, then I’m not going to ask you,” Johnson said.

But he does see a special talent in Fields.

“Justin — that kid has game — he might the best quarterback I have seen since my brother De’Andre [Johnson],” he said. “Whatever school that Justin goes to is getting a great player and a great guy. Wherever he goes, he can wait until signing day. Those schools are still going to take him.”

“He’s a dual-threat that can also be a pocket passer. He can hurt you with his legs and arms. In the way that college football and the NFL is going, you absolutely need a guy like that on your team.”

Johnson said he was impressed by the show that both Corral and Fields put on for the campers at Friday Night Lights in Gainesville, Fla.

https://twitter.com/JCope5era/status/888592180914397185

“When I am talking about both of those guys were spinning it, I mean oh-my-gosh,” Johnson said. “Oh my goodness. It was just like being at The Opening all over again.”

Johnson also noted how well 3-star QB prospect Carter Bradley (Providence H.S./Jacksonville, Fla.) threw that day, too. Bradley also is uncommitted.

“He was making the same throws that Fields and Corral were making,” Johnson said. “I thought that guy was truly getting slept on and that some school really needs to pick him up.”

Tyreke Johnson on his brother’s story

Johnson said that he was “blown away” by his brother’s performance on this season of Last Chance U on Netflix. If you aren’t familiar, with Last Chance U, it is a documentary that chronicles the football program at East Mississippi Community College. Many of the players at East Mississippi wind up there for because academic or disciplinary reasons keep them off the rosters at other universities.

His older brother was dismissed from Florida State in 2015 after a videotape showed him striking a woman at a bar.

It was a chilling scene. An indefensible moment.

The incident made national news. De’Andre had to take a step back and restart his career at East Mississippi Community College. The younger Johnson and his family have contended that person on video was not the man they knew. It was out of character.

De’Andre Johnson now is back on scholarship at Florida Atlantic University. The whole episode, culminating in the appearance on Last Chance U, made quite an impression on Tyreke.

“He broke my scale, to be honest,” he  said. “As I watched the first season [of Last Chance U] everyone was negative or had something negative to say when adversity hit. Whenever something wasn’t going their way, they said something negative. But when things went wrong on that show this season with De’Andre, I never saw him say anything like that. Nothing negative about anyone.”

“Even when the center was messing up. … De’Andre was like ‘it is the ball’s fault’ and ‘the laces were put on wrong.’ Just to pick him up. Just to lift his spirits. He really showed traits of a true leader. The schools that didn’t recruit him [after his dismissal from Florida State] definitely missed out on a great guy. Now they can see more of that and what he is really all about.”

Some new recruiting Intel on Tyreke Johnson

Johnson left The Opening on the last day in July, clad head-to-toe in UGA gear. Even the shoes. He said tried to dress that way any time he is on a school’s campus to pay respect to the program that is recruiting him.

But he was on Nike’s campus that day in Oregon. Why did he dress in the colors of the Bulldogs?

Tyreke Johnson-UGA recruiting
Tyreke Johnson was clad in all-UGA gear on the final day of The Opening. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

“It was just one of those things where I felt like red and black just looks good on me,” he said.

Does he still feel that way?

“Of course,” he said.

Johnson knows how to use the media to get his message across. When asked if there were any new schools, perhaps like a Clemson, that have entered the picture, he chose not to answer that question.

Public perception is not a big thing to him.

“I’m going to college for free,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, I’m there to get my degree. That’s my ultimate goal and go to the next level. I don’t have time to worry about what everyone thinks about me. If they think I’m a bad person, then let them think that. If they think I’m a great person, then let them think I’m a great person. I’m really not here or there [at a school] to make everyone like me. Because if everyone liked me, that would mean that I’m probably not being real with myself.”

Johnson said the following schools have given him every indication he has a spot in their 2018 class, regardless of how long he needs to make his decision: Georgia, UCLA, Ohio State, LSU and Florida.

“They are all like, ‘Tyreke, we want you to play for us at the end of the day but we have developed a relationship with you as a person. So if you don’t come to us I am still going to check up on you every now and then to see if you ever need advice’ when we talk about that stuff,” Johnson said.

That position coach has a career, too. The same goes for the coordinators he speaks with. They might meet up with Johnson down the road when they have advanced their careers to a better college job or even made a move to the NFL.

“I feel like I have a relationship with those schools that is more than just football,” he said.

The official visits question

Has he made progress on choosing his official visits?

Tyreke Johnson-UGA recruiting
Tyreke Johnson’s college decision could involve a silent commitment. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

“I would think I have my officials,” Johnson said. “But then my family and I will actually sit down and plan and work out a schedule but it may not work out. It is like one of those things where I might talk to my [high school football] coach and see what officials he will allow me to take. Maybe what Monday practices potentially he might allow me to miss.”

Johnson said he doesn’t need an official visit weekend where he needs to be catered to.

“I don’t care about a lot of attention,” he said. “If I am going to go to your school, then I am going to go to your school. Regardless. I am going to do my own research. I don’t need a school kissing my butt and texting me every day. That’s actually kind of annoying.”

So, just where does Georgia stand?

He told DawgNation earlier this year  “the staff knows how I feel about Georgia,” and he said that statement still conveys the proper tone for that relationship.

“Every school knows how I feel about them because I am a pretty transparent person,” Johnson said.

He keeps that real, too.

“I always tell a school who they are in it with,” Johnson said. “So they know what they are dealing with. It is one of those things where I go, ‘School X is higher than School B and you are School F.’ I will say ‘Coach, you and your school is still in it but this is this and that is that.’ I let them know what I am thinking.”

Johnson previously stated a plan to bring “four to five” other prospects with him. Is that still possible?

“Of course,” he said. “Boy, I have got a plan. Boy, I have got a plan. We are going to shock the world.”