HS coach bullish on local 2017 TE offer

Tyler Johnson is a clear-cut priority target for Arizona State at tight end in the 2017 class and one of the state's top overall prospects, a rising junior at Gilbert Highland.

Social media was ablaze Wednesday locally with news Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland 2017 tight end prospect Tyler Johnson had been offered scholarships by Arizona State and Arizona on the first day of the spring evaluation period.

But Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said the Sun Devils were actually in the door with a scholarship offer earlier in the process, with Johnson being recruited by ASU tight ends coach Chip Long (pictured above).

"One of the (ASU) coaches texted me that I think and asked me that question," Wahlhiem said. "I don't know exactly the timeline but they were in early and offered first. Arizona offered him yesterday. But yes, I do believe ASU was in first.

"I know he was over there at the scrimmage Friday and was impressed with what ASU is doing and the life coach (Todd) Graham has brought into the program and we'll see what happens."

The Sun Devils appear to have actually offered a scholarship to Johnson in February, it just went unreported at the time. Either way, the 6-foot-4, 240 pound prospect is clearly on track to be one of the high end BCS targets in the Arizona 2017 class after a sophomore season that included 20 receptions for 332 yards and eight touchdowns along with all-section and all-state honors.

It perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise considering Johnson's father Bill Johnson played in the NFL for eight seasons after a college career as a defensive end at Michigan State.

"He's able to do things on the football field I really haven't seen before in my coaching experience," Wahlheim said. "Even on special teams he does some things that are amazing, hit two or three big plays on special teams as a returner. He's fun to watch in that area.

"To be honest I haven't seen anybody come through here that is that big and strong and can move as well as he does. A lot of the things he does you can't coach. His center of gravity is low, his ball skills, he's a hands catcher. It comes natural to him. As far as his route running and physical strength, he's just going to get better."

Wahlheim said he's never coaches a player with Johnson's combination of size, flexibility and utility as a prospect, and it makes for a prospect who has a lot of room to grow into what he'll eventually become.

Even if it just isn't exactly clear what that will be yet.

"I think what will cause problems for people is his versatility," Wahlheim said. "He's big enough, as a sophomore he's 230 (pounds), 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, he can be an in-line tight end for somebody, play with his hand on the ground, play outside, play in the slot. He's awful versatile and I think that's what people like about him. He runs well enough well enough to play on the outside and is big enough to play in-line. Most of the colleges are looking at him as a receiver-tight end but he also plays defensive end for us and is a heck of an edge pass rusher. I don't know what exactly he'll be in two years position-wise but he's got a lot of versatility."

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