Four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson of Sacramento (Calif.) Luther Burbank had already been to California once, but when he was invited by Tom Lemming for his All-American photo shoot, he figured he'd use the opportunity to pay the Bears another visit on Saturday. He wasn't disappointed.
"I thought the facilities, of course, were great, and the team, I got to sit inside the defensive line meetings, and I liked what the coach was trying to preach, and I got to see the work that was getting put out," Johnson said. "I got to watch the pre-practice, and some of the scrimmage they did. I saw guys flying around and it was a great team atmosphere."
During the scrimmage, Johnson was able to chat with coaches during breaks in the action.
"I was able to talk to some of the coaches for a little bit. It was just a great experience," Johnson said. "I talked to the D-line coach and the D-coordinator, and some of the assistant coaches. We just talked about stuff, and got to see how everything was going, and everything was going good. I talked with some of the players and got to know them a little bit."
The visit wasn't about a campus tour, or academic advisors. It was a nuts-and-bolts inside look at the program, and what he saw impressed him.
"What impressed me was the way they emphasize work, and keep driving, and kind of playing to your strengths -- you know what you can and can't do, so don't try to do something that you can't do," Burbank said, echoing what we've heard from defensive line coach Fred Tate many times. "You be better at what you can do, and then work on what you can't do. It's trying to get the D-line better, get work in, and make sure they attack, make sure that they work. That's a big thing they're trying to get through to the defensive line."
Johnson has the recruiting world at his feet, with offers from 29 different schools, including Nebraska, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Michigan and Georgia, but there are elements that help Cal stand out from the pack.
"What stands out to me is having coaches preaching stuff like that, I can definitely fit in that system, and Cal's definitely a team on the rise," Johnson said. "It'd be great to get on a team that's going up, not on a team that's going down. That's definitely something."
"We had good conversations," Johnson said. "They asked me how recruiting was going, asking my top teams, and told me about Cal. They said they need somebody like me to come play for them."
He also chatted with commit Gabe Cherry, who told him about the school, and why he committed.
"I know a lot, already, from talking to the coaches," Johnson said. "I asked him what he likes, and he was saying what I already knew."
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Johnson certainly looks like he already belongs on a college field. As for those top teams? Johnson hasn't released a top group, but, he said, "Cal is a top team, for me."
Right now, though, he can't give the rest of the list.
"If they keep balling and getting better, they're going to stay a top team for me," Johnson said.
Staying close to home isn't a factor, but, Johnson said, it would be a bonus.
"It's not something that really matters to me, but if the team I chose was close to home, it would be a plus," Johnson said.
Johnson has other visits in mind, but doesn't know where or when, quite yet. During his spring break -- the week before last -- he just worked out, and didn't visit any schools.
In the weight room, Johnson benches 325, and squats "around 500." Academically, he has a 3.0 GPA.