New California offensive coordinator Jake Spavital offered four-star tight end/inside receiver Taariq Johnson back in February, the Monday before National Signing Day, and the offer was, to put it mildly, well-received.
Johnson made a visit to Berkeley as a freshman at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, and immediately fell in love, and after a visit this weekend, he decided to put a ring on it.
"It's still the same as I remember it," Johnson said.
"It was good" Johnson said of the visit. "I liked it a lot. Now, I know the history of the coaching staff, and the players they've produced, and honestly, it's got me excited. The education and athletics, it provides everything that I need."
Johnson brought both his parents, and two younger brothers, who all "liked it a lot."
Berkeley also provides some comfort. Johnson, who has a 3.43 GPA, has known cornerback Jaylinn Hawkins "for years," but he's also close with Tre Watson and Evan Rambo from growing up in Southern California. He talked to all of them over his visit. Johnson is also teammates with Jeremiah Hawkins, Jaylinn's uncle. He said that the younger Hawkins had already visited recently, and "kind of got the gist of things," so he didn't need to say anything. Could the two wind up together in college?
"It's a possibility," Johnson said.
The 6-foot-3.5, 210-pounder spent much of Friday's practice shadowing inside receivers coach Jacob Peeler and the rest of the inside receiving corps. A receiver by trade, Johnson has blossomed into a tight end-type body, but he still runs and catches like a receiver. He should remind Cal fans of recently-graduated tight end Stephen Anderson, who also started life at Cal as a wide receiver. Johnson, though, is starting from a much higher spot than Anderson, with a higher ceiling, but the frames are similar enough, and they both check the same boxes.
Spavital and Peeler told Johnson that he'd be used "all over," both inside and outside.
"He's a cool guy," Johnson said of Spavital. "I really like what he did at Texas A&M. We talked all day on and off, at the practice and in his office."
Johnson, at the moment, is more of a big inside receiver than a true tight end, but he has the kind of frame to grow in to a hybrid tight end/h-back, which, when you look at what Darius Powe and Anderson were able to do, bodes very well for him in this offense. He runs well and has no problem getting open, both in the intermediate routes and getting down the field. He has put on some good weight in the last year and will be a tough matchup for a linebacker or safety to handle at the next level.null