Jermaine Johnson played high school ball in Minnesota. He currently excels on the junior college level at the newly-Netflix famous Independence Community College in Kansas.
But his next team will be the University of Georgia. His eligibility window will allow him three years to play two seasons once he graduates from junior college.
“There was no other place like it,” Johnson told 247Sports on their Facebook Live feed. “The moment I stepped on campus I knew. They treated me like family. They treated my family like family. There are no other coaches like them.”
“It makes you want to go play for them and put your heart on the line for them.”
The title of his Hudl highlight film is “I Hate QBs” and the Bulldog fan base will be the program that gets to see why on Saturdays.
With this decision, the Bulldogs now overtake Alabama for the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2019 on the 247Sports Team composite recruiting rankings.
Johnson, the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect for 2019 per 247Sports, made his commitment on Thursday. He has the ability to come in next fall at play heavily at the weak-side OLB spot in Georgia’s 3-4 base front.
He chose the Bulldogs out of 20-plus reported offers and a top 5 which includes Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and UCLA. Johnson shared his decision via an exclusive commitment video from 247 Sports.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound prospect has the size and athleticism that will remind DawgNation of current New York Giant Lorenzo Carter.
He might have even more upside. Might.
Several have advanced the scouting opinion Johnson might need one season in the SEC before the NFL beckons.
Why? His ICC coaches say he can run the first 10 yards of a sprint faster than any of the defensive backs in their program.
“He’s an NFL athlete,” Independence Community College coach Jason Brown said. “There’s no question about that. He can play on the hash or he can rush the passer.”
“He’s just that talented of a kid. He can play just about anywhere on the field. He just has to understand that this game is short-lived and he needs to know that football will not last forever.”
The two have a unique relationship.
“Jermaine was my sole hand-picked guy,” Brown said. “I did a lot of work to get Jermaine here. I’m hard on him and I love him at the same time. I think he knows that.”
Brown feels Johnson has vast physical tools. But he says there is another level or two to his on-field play.
“His upside is even greater than his strengths look to be right now,” he said. “He’s a strong kid and he is physical but I’d like to see him play with more physicality and reckless abandon. Just be fearless out there and dominate like he can every snap.”
“You can’t find a lot of faults with him or flaws. Yet nobody on the field is perfect. He can play with maybe even more of an edge.”
The chase for Jermaine Johnson
Johnson had 58 tackles and eight sacks in 11 games for a program which would finish with a No. 5 final junior college ranking in 2017. He also forced and recovered three fumbles.
“Everybody in the country is trying to get him on their campus,” Brown said. “He was kind of discouraged last year about no offers and stuff. But I told him he would be the No. 1 player in America if he just held his course and understood that this was a marathon and not a sprint.”
Johnson holds an impressive visit list for this summer: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M. Just to name a few.
“Now he comes in and says ‘You were not lying coach’ and ‘This is amazing’ when we talk about all his college opportunities,” Brown said.
It looks like he’s made strides since last season. Check out his spring clips.
Just a lil sum from this spring🤙🏾💦 pic.twitter.com/2keDQrPUqm
— Jermaine Johnson II (@ii_jermaine) May 19, 2018
There’s a toughness factor to be aware of beyond his size and athleticism. Johnson got hurt during the Independence spring scrimmage.
There were a host of college scouts in attendance for that program. Independence which calls itself “Dream U” is now one of the most heavily-recruited junior colleges in America.
“He still wanted to play,” Brown said. “He’s not a prima donna. When some people look at him they see a great-looking young man and he’s built and looks the part. People may see that he looks like a damn model, but that is definitely not the case with Jermaine.”
How the Bulldogs landed Jermaine Johnson
It should be noted that first-year OLBs coach Dan Lanning was a major factor here.
Johnson was in Athens over the weekend to attend the big Bulldog “reveal” event with the unveiling of the west end zone improvements, including that shiny new locker room.
The Bulldogs got in on Johnson early. UGA was the fourth school to offer him back in February. It also made the Bulldogs the first SEC program to do so.
He took an important trip to UGA for the “Scavenger Hunt” event on May 19. Johnson was paired with 5-star OLB Nolan Smith for that competition.
That now seems like a fast-forward to the future. The Bulldogs keenly placed their ideal edge playmakers (along with 5-star freshmen Adam Anderson and Brenton Cox) for the next three seasons in the same group.
That was a big trip. Johnson brought several members of his extended family, including his long-time girlfriend.
That couple dates back to his Minnesota roots. Johnson signed with Independence in February of 2017.
He exploded onto the scene last year for his role as a dominating defender. He is part of a Pirates squad that is now the feature in the latest Netflix installment of “Last Chance U.”
His No. 11 flashes in several clips. Johnson will make the play or force the play back inside for his teammates to clean up.
Johnson lists a 3.5 grade-point average. He will graduate in December to enroll early in January of 2019. He becomes the 17th commitment for the Bulldogs in the 2019 class.
Brown compares Johnson favorably to a couple of NFL defenders he coached. Johnson reminds him of Akeem Ayers (former NFL second-rounder and New England Patriot) and Bruce Irvin (former NFL first-rounder) of the Oakland Raiders.
“Jermaine is a little longer than Akeem,” Brown said. “But both he and Akeem have a knack for the football. Jermaine can easily transition from his hand in the ground to playing the outside ‘backer spot. It is hard to know where he might play. He can play so many spots. We messed around and put him at safety and just play around with him because he is so athletic and can run and turn his hips.”
“He can play anything out there. To be honest, it is just a matter of where he goes. Was he going to take on a tight end and bang all day in the SEC? Or was it the Big 12 to play two-back personnel stuff? Or the Pac-12 where they throw it all day and he can show his pass rush ability almost every down?”