Sentell’s Intel: Time to start thinking Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer will both play early at UGA

UGA commits Netori Johnson (left) and Justin Shaffer (right) could both play early in Athens.

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 this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.


The statement has been made a few times on DawgNation that fans should not be surprised to see 4-star Netori Johnson hit the field fast at Georgia.

That’s not a huge leap. Johnson is a couple pizza boxes shy of the 6-foot-4 mark. He’s maybe one of those pizzas over the 335-pound mark, too.

The ratings have him as the nation’s No. 5 offensive guard for 2017. Georgia also doesn’t have the locker room stocked with veteran behemoths that can mirror Johnson’s size, skill and tenacity. That’s why it is logical to project the 4-star from Cedar Grove as one of the most likely 2017 commits to play right away.

My bad on that one, though. I only had that one half-right. That conversation needs to include his Cedar Grove teammate and fellow UGA commit, too. That’s Justin Shaffer.

Cedar Grove High School teammates Justin Shaffer (left) and Netori Johnson (right) are expected to become a formidable tandem at guard during their careers at UGA. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The 6-foot-5, 352-pounder “only” rates just as a 3-star prospect and as the nation’s No. 20 prospect at guard for 2017. I think Shaffer will now also play quickly at UGA.

His senior film shows he can do that. The way he tracked down and locked onto major UGA 4-star target Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant last Friday night provides further evidence.

It is time to start expecting that both Johnson and Shaffer can quickly earn playing time at UGA. Cedar Grove coach Jimmy Smith believes that. Crisp County coach Shelton Felton can back that up, too.

But Johnson’s take might be the best.

“Justin is just as good as me,” Johnson said. “I feel like he should be a (U.S. Army) All-American with me and everything. I believe Justin and I are going to come in and play left and right guard. Fast. Whichever we choose. We are going to start at the University of Georgia and we are going to change that whole program.”

Johnson and Shaffer play both ways for a Cedar Grove team that will face Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Class AAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome. Those Spartans will be led by Stanford commitment Davis Mills.

“We are vicious,” Johnson said. “We don’t play any games. We’re vicious up front. Our defensive backs are vicious. I don’t think any team has the talent and the intensity we do to mess with us right now.”

This part was worth its own post 

Johnson was effusive in his praise for Shaffer. But he also sounded ready to show during official visit season just how committed he is to play for line coach Sam Pittman at Georgia.

“I have to talk to Coach Pittman about this man but I really don’t see myself taking any officials to anywhere else,’ Johnson said. “I’ve talked to Florida and Bama. I’ve talked to Michigan. I am thinking about it but right now I don’t see anything right now. Just one official. That’s to Georgia.”

That lone official is currently planned for Jan. 13 to UGA. He will just take that one with Shaffer.


“I’m at home man,” Johnson said. “That’s what I want. I want Georgia and everyone out there to know that. Just like the coaches at Georgia came to see me in my home. That’s why I want to show that I am showing that Georgia is my home by that.”

Johnson currently only plans to take one official visit. That will be to Georgia. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

It sounds like good things will come in pairs for that with Georgia. Shaffer has picked up recent interest from Florida and Mississippi State, but he feels the same way as his current and future teammate.

“To be honest I am hoping to only just take my Georgia official,” Shaffer said. “Andrew (Thomas) and then Netori and I are all hoping to come in and do our officials on the same date.”

Shaffer has his goals set. He plans to cut back on the food, watch his nutrition and hit the weights. He hopes to report to Georgia at 335 pounds.

“My mindset when I get to Athens is just to work hard,” Shaffer said. “That’s my mindset. Georgia needs bigger linemen in the program on the inside and outside. My mindset is just to get in there, work hard and keep working hard until I make them feel they have to give me that starting spot.”

Pittman’s sense of humor is well-known around this blog. He has a funny line he often brings up around Shaffer.

“He’s always calling me ‘Big Freak’ whenever I’m around,” Shaffer said. “He always calls me that.”

Shaffer drew out the words “Big Freak” to the point where it took him about four seconds to say that. That’s the proper inflection.

Sizing up Johnson and Shaffer 

The scouting report on Johnson and Shaffer will sound familiar. But with one big twist.

“I do think Justin is every bit as good as Netori,” Cedar Grove coach Jimmy Smith said. “The style of play is different. Netori is more athletic. Justin is more technically sound. Now I tell you what’s going to happen when they both get to Georgia. The coaches there are going to get Justin in better shape and they are going to make him more athletic. Then with Netori, those coaches are going to make him more technically sound.”

He predicted that Georgia’s staff will give each one of his guys what they need at the next level.

Shaffer is rated as the nation’s No. 20 prospect at guard for 2017.

“They are going to meet in the middle with the both of them,” Smith said. “Then they are going to play in the middle early for Georgia. I really think that.”

Felton — the coach who led the turnaround this year at Crisp County — agreed with that.

“No offense to No. 72,” Felton said, referring to Johnson,” But I had a vote I would go with No. 77 (Shaffer) for my first pick between them two. I like that guy. He plays with attitude but he plays the right way. He has good fundamentals and he sets up good and with good feet. I’ve watched every game. That No. 77 (Shaffer) is the technician and (Johnson) is the athlete. If (Johnson) can get his act together as far as technique wise fast, then he can play guard next year and play well in the SEC. He’s that good. Both of those guys are huge.”

Who’s next on the OL? 

Will Georgia sign a fifth offensive lineman? Johnson shared his hope to fill out the lineman class for 2017 at Georgia.

“We want Isaiah Wilson to be honest,” Johnson said. “I want Isaiah and feel like it is between us and Michigan. I want him and believe he can help change the program with us up front. With him up front, we would be nothing but destructive to defensive lines up front. We would deal out nothing but havoc.”

Johnson hoped that Crisp County 4-star linebacker Markaviest Bryant will also join the program. He looked around for a good bit after his team beat Bryant’s Cougars in the Class AAA state semifinals.

Shaffer also sought him out on the field.

“I kept telling him to ‘Commit to the G’ while we were out there after plays,” Shaffer said after Friday night’s game. “We need him. We will take both him and Quay (Walker) and bring them over to Georgia with us. They can both help us at Georgia. I kept telling him to commit to the G or to come with us to Georgia out there.”

State title motivation

The U.S. Army All-American was motivated by last year’s loss in the state semifinals. He reacted to that loss differently than most. That’s usually a time for most eyes.

Not Johnson. He told his teammates there wasn’t anything to cry about. He still has his senior year. All he had to think about was getting better and doing whatever he could to make sure that didn’t happen again as seniors.

“We beat ourselves last year,” Johnson said on Friday night. “My team didn’t prepare well. We looked down on that team we faced because they had lost four games. They came in and beat us. This team (Crisp County) was undefeated and we came down here to play them and had lost two games. We came down here and got something handled.”

Netori Johnson (left) and his Cedar Grove teammate Justin Shaffer (right) plan to take their UGA official visits on Jan. 13. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Smith said that attitude will serve Johnson well in college.

“That’s what I love about Netori Johnson,” Smith said. “He’s never the type of guy who is trying to find an excuse. He’s going to always try to find a solution. He said what was everybody crying for last year. We just need to find a way to get better for next year instead of crying about it. Worry about the next one instead of crying about the one we just lost.”

Breaking down the two gems at Crisp County

The Intel gave a pretty good look into Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant’s decision on Monday. That was mostly the where is he going and the rundown on schools fodder.

We’re going to discuss a little bit about how both Bryant and 4-star junior Quay Walker play the game today.

Let’s start with Bryant. I think he can really play. He’s a top-of-the-line athlete at outside linebacker. He’s got all the bells and whistles.

But then there’s Walker. I have to say this: I think he’s the special edition. That dude can do everything: Blitz. Cover. Chase. Flips his hips. Hit. Stop the run.

Walker (left) and Bryant (right) aren’t sure whether or not they will be a package deal and go to the same school out of Crisp Country. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

He’s special.

“Quay is an animal,” Felton said. “He plays with attitude and he’s very athletic.”

When college coaches call Felton about Walker, he comes with all of that. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is rated as the nation’s No. 20 OLB.

That stuff is going to go up after the Rising Seniors practices. Or at the very least by the spring camp circuit. If it doesn’t I will eat a DawgNation T-shirt. Word.

“I tell the college coaches that call that they can’t miss with Quay,” Felton said. “Quay can play the ‘Will’ linebacker. He can be the rush end and can drop in coverage. Quay can cover most slot receivers. He really can. But the funny thing about it is this is his first year playing defense.”

Walker didn’t play at all before Felton arrived. He played tight end for the Cougars last year.

“When I watched film and evaluating him and kept wondering why Quay kept running over folks,” Felton said. “I figured out why. He was hunting contact. As a defensive guy, I heard the ding. I saw that and he needed to be on defense.”

While that’s a lot of good stuff about Walker, let’s leave with a good nugget on the 2017 kid.

That’s Bryant. The best play on his highlight tape will catch every eye. Go check this clip below from Bryant against Worth County.

“That had to be the one he made in the region championship game against Worth County,” Felton said. “It wasn’t even him making the play. He sold out his body and cut down three guys for us to make a play on fourth down. That is the one play he made this year that stands out to me.”

I gotta admit. I love players that make plays like that one.



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Follow Jeff Sentell 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.

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