Theo Johnson-Georgia football-UGA football

Nation’s No. 3 TE Theo Johnson has set his commitment date

Theo Johnson has made up his mind. That’s a good thing.

The nation’s No. 3 TE prospect for the 2020 cycle announced via his Twitter account on Friday morning that he was ready to make his college decision.

That means he’s ready. It means he is also ready to go ahead and start thinking about signing on Dec. 18 and enrolling early with the school of his choice in January of 2020.

Georgia tight ends coach Todd Hartley was able to fly in on Sunday and get an in-home visit in advance of the heavy preparations for LSU in the SEC championship game this weekend.

Johnson rates as the No. 3 TE for the 2020 class on the 247Sports Composite ratings for this cycle. He is the No. 1 player from Canada and also the No. 83 overall prospect.

He had established a time to commit last month but opted to back out of that decision.

It has been a trying time for Johnson as he clearly struggled with that choice.

The 6-foot-5.5 Under Armour All-American even knows he can turn a Georgia or Iowa or Michigan or Penn State offer into his NFL lotto ticket. He even knows the decision about whether he makes it will be up to him once he enrolls and begins his Saturday grind.

Yet he still wants to make the best decision. And that is why he still does not know where he wants to play college ball.

“I’ve thought about this every single hour of the day for the last two and a half years,” Johnson told DawgNation last month. “I thought about this at least every single day.”

“I can’t focus. I will try and think of something else and I just can’t because I just know how much of an impact this decision is going to have on my whole life. I just can’t not think about it. It has been really very taxing on me. The one thing that kind of takes my mind off of things is playing football and working out and doing stuff like that. But when I am just sitting around in class or something it is pretty tough. It is very hard and it has definitely been rough.”

Will that red cell phone case fit right in on the campus at UGA in January? DawgNation will find that answer out on Monday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Theo Johnson: Why he might choose Georgia on Monday

With Georgia and Johnson, there’s the good and maybe the not-so-good. Or maybe just a “needs improvement” type of thing.

He sees the Southern culture and climate as somewhat of a different world than growing up in Big 10 country.

“It is just a lot different than the other schools that I have visited,” he said. “It is just a lot different down south. For me, it was a totally different experience from the other schools I visited. The feelings and experiences I had at Georgia just still kind of stick out in my mind.”

He had a really good official visit experience. Every time he’s been to UGA, he has enjoyed himself. That has held up with his great experiences at Penn State and its great “White Out” win earlier this year.

“I just really liked the overall feel of down south,” he said. “I just really liked it down there.”

That “needs improvement” stuff centers on Georgia and its tight ends history. Or the lack thereof.

“I know that they haven’t been able to do certain things with the tight ends,” Johnson said. “Because they don’t have the personnel right now and stuff. I just think the big thing with Georgia right now is certain schools have proven usage of the tight ends and stuff like that but the thing that interests me with Georgia and keeps me like thinking about them is just the possibility to kind of change the tight end room.”

Johnson is 6 feet and 5.5 inches tall. He weighs right at 240 pounds with a 4.63 laser time in the 40. He can test anywhere from 36 to 40 inches with his vertical jump.

The Bulldogs don’t have an athlete like that yet at TE for their 2020 team.  With all apologies to John FitzPatrick, Ryland Goede and Brett Seither they don’t have that blend of athletic ability, ball skills, explosiveness, length and overall size.

Not many tight end rooms do. Johnson could already spring past 10 feet in the broad jump in the summer of 2018.

“The possibility for me to change the tight end room at Georgia is there,” he said last month. “To where Georgia is starting to use tight ends more afterward then as a school. Some of the things that people say about other school’s tight ends then they would then be saying about Georgia’s tight ends. That definitely interests me about Georgia to kind of change the culture and change what people think about the tight ends coming out of there.”

There’s also the strong relationship he has built with Hartley. That matters here.

“With that, it will definitely take a leap of faith,” he said. “Just because a lot of people throughout the process they say like if a school says ‘Oh don’t listen to somebody if somebody says we are going to start doing this or start doing that then don’t listen to it. Everybody says that. It is just recruiting talk and stuff’  but I really trust Coach Hartley there. It would take the trust we have built and the trust in the relationship we have.”

“I feel he is being truthful with me so it would take a leap of faith and just trusting Coach Hartley and everything he’s been telling me through this process is going to hold up when I actually get there.”

Will that “trust” be enough to earn the commitment on Monday against programs with higher reputations for sending its tight ends to the NFL? That is what it will have to be.

Iowa saw a pair of its former 3-star recruits develop into NFL first-rounders in the most recent draft. NFL Pro Bowler George Kittles was a fifth-rounder in 2017. There was another third-round pick in 2013.

Penn State wins on about the same level as Georgia. Maybe just a notch lower of late. It has a great atmosphere and also clearly utilizes the tight end more.

The Nittany Lions have sent a second-rounder and a fifth-rounder from its TE room to the NFL in the last five years.

Michigan has a location benefit, a big program profile that ranks up there with Georgia and Penn State. The Bulldogs are the only school that has won a conference championship or reached the national semifinals under their current head coach.

But that Michigan degree is a gem its alumni base is real. That’s the quick way to chop up his decision.

It seems like every school has a “10” in a certain area, but then they are all strong in the same core areas. That’s why it has been so hard for Johnson.

 

 

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