The last time I watched his sophomore film, it seemed like Max Johnson was on his way to being good enough to stand on his own. Rapidly.
It would not be too much longer before the reporter tribe no longer needed to throw around terms like “son of NFL quarterback Brad Johnson” or “Florida State legacy” to rev up interest in his recruiting storyline.
He’s likely at that point right now.
Johnson, the 4-star sophomore quarterback from Oconee County, Ga., was among a fleet of prospects with big arms firing darts through the constant winds and icy temps Sunday at Nike’s The Opening Atlanta regional.
“You just have to bear through it,” Johnson said. “The weather conditions were not great, but that didn’t make it any less fun. It was fun throwing to great receivers against great DBs. All the QBs here were great. It was fun competing with everyone.”
Bo Nix. Talia Tagovailoa. Harrison Bailey. Aaron McLaughlin. Johnson belonged in the first part of any discussion about who looked like the best QB at the camp.
Johnson played at 189 pounds last fall. The 6-foot-5 sophomore was up to 215 pounds when he weighed in at The Opening Atlanta regional.
“It was something I tried to do,” he said. “Get bigger, faster and stronger.”
His arm really cut through those winds and temps. He could still power the ball downfield.
It was a day where a few of those so-called strong prospects had trouble throwing to their left. Not the elite guys. Maybe those in the mid-tier. That wasn’t the case with Johnson.
Very impressed by Max Johnson (class of 2020) at The Atlanta Opening today. First real good look at him. He came in at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. @qbmjohnson2020 is up from 183 from last fall. pic.twitter.com/v5RXW2CdSh
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) March 25, 2018
The recruiting picture for Max Johnson
He’s not on the 247Sports composite ranking yet. But he’s listed by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 3 pro-style passer and as the nation’s No. 69 overall prospect for 2020.
“I’m not trying to chase offers,” he said. “But I’ve got a couple of schools I really like. It has been fun to take in the whole experience and the whole process visiting these schools.”
He politely declined to name those two schools.
“I’d really rather not say right now,” he said. “I’m just looking at a couple right now I’m really interested in. I’m looking to visit them and going to camp with them this summer.”
Johnson wants to be developed. That’s what he described he was looking for.
“The right fit and someone who can put me in the best situation to win a championship,” Johnson said. “But overall just develop me to move on to the league and better me as a person.”
His father, Brad, starred at Florida State before playing 15 seasons in the NFL with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Washington and Dallas. The younger Johnson camped at Florida State last summer. He’s also taken at least two unofficial visits to Miami since then.
The latest trip was in February. Former Georgia coach Mark Richt is his uncle, so it stands to reason that Miami will be in a good spot. It is no stretch to think he might eventually choose the Hurricanes.
But he’s from Watkinsville, Ga. The proximity to the UGA campus should mean something. He also grew up watching the Bulldogs a lot given all those natural connections.
He also went to see Georgia practice on Wednesday.
“It was fun to see Georgia practice and watch them compete and the tempo that went on,” he told DawgNation. “All the QBs had a great day, and it was fun learning and watching them.”
Johnson was already absorbing a few tweaks he picked up from the instructors at the Nike camp.
“I need to get better and not wailing my arm down a lot and getting quicker with my release,” he said. “I learned a lot from the coaches [at The Opening]. All of them played in the NFL. It was good getting that advice from them.”
Johnson said he plans to graduate early to join his next team in January of 2020.
“I am going to try to figure it out by next year,” he said when discussing his decision timeline. “The end of my junior year.”
Max Johnson on UGA
He kept his thoughts straight down the middle regarding the Bulldogs.
“I feel the same way about them as I do every other school,” he said. “I look forward to seeing them this summer and moving on with the process.”
Johnson said he’s hearing a lot from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and quarterbacks coach James Coley. He’s impressed with the direction the program is heading under Kirby Smart.
“I hear from both of them,” Johnson said. “They tell me that even though Justin Fields is now at UGA they are not going to change their offense. That’s a good thing to hear from them.”
The message he gets from those two coaches also seems pretty simple.
“Just have fun,” he said. “Enjoy the process. Compete hard. Hang out with your buddies. Because that time will come when football takes away from that.”
There’s a lot to like about Johnson. He’s big, but he seems just as athletic — if not more so — than a few of the other elite quarterbacks with great size at the Atlanta regional.
He’d like to take a lot of those elite receivers with him back to Oconee County Hig. Yet as he said that, he said he wouldn’t trade any of his hard-working teammates for anything. That’s a good example of his leadership ability.
Johnson said he has no plans to attend any spring games but will visit four or five schools this summer. He’s not trying to overload things. It sounds like he will prioritize his time this summer to just get better.
“I have a long way to go,” he said. “You will never arrive as a quarterback. Even when you are in the pros, you will never arrive and be a master of everything a quarterback is expected to do. It is just a constant mindset toward getting better every day.
“I need to gain more weight. Get better reading coverages. Get better throwing every ball. But I also just want to have fun while I am doing this thing.”