Cotton Connection Secures Johnson

The first look Rushville High Schooler Brandon Johnson got outside of the Nebraska panhandle actually came as a standout wrestler for the small school in the northwest tip of the state. But word gradually spread further about the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder, even as far as Ames after the addition of former Husker offensive coordinator Barney Cotton.

As it turns out, ISU signed Brandon Johnson after he gave head coach Dan McCarney a verbal commitment last week.

"People in the panhandle have known about Brandon for three years," said Rushville coach Brent Ehlers. "They have had to play against him and coach against him. He's a good-framed kid and would probably weigh around 290 right now if he wasn't in wrestling. He had a great state wrestling tournament last year and people started to notice his frame and size down there. Then he went to some camps this year, and had good camps at Lincoln and Chadron State.

"Iowa State wanted film two weeks ago and I got it sent off, then they called a few days later and were really high on him. (Last) Wednesday they flew in to get him, and he orally committed on Thursday morning."

Johnson's addition gives the Cyclones another offensive lineman in a class that has made restocking depth at the position a big focus. Whereas all of the other linemen that are signing committed very early in the process, ISU's recruitment of Johnson turned into a last-minute priority. Of course, the fact Nebraska wouldn't be willing to sign him to a full-ride scholarship helped the Cyclones' case, too.

"With the change in coaching staffs, Brandon was still going to be a walk-on prospect for the Huskers," Ehlers said. "He had been offered a full ride to Chadron State, a premier Division II college, but it was pretty much a two-man race. Coach Cotton and Brandon really have good rapport. When Brandon got to Iowa State, he felt at home right away and liked the coaches and facilities. Brandon's a small-town kid and a hard working kid, and that's what he liked about Iowa State."

ISU coaches have left the door open for Johnson to play either side of the ball, but with Cotton's overall recruiting influence look for him to end up as an offensive guard or center.

"Brandon's either going to be an offensive guard/center type of kid, or a defensive lineman," Ehlers said. "He's real explosive and has a great first step or two. He has great leverage and really good feet. Brandon wrestles and a lot of it's attributed to that. He's able to explode through people. He's going to get bigger and weigh 310 or 320 pounds easily. I'll call him a diamond in the rough.

"He's going to go wherever they tell him to and will work his butt off. He has the ability to play both sides of the ball. But I think Coach Cotton is looking at him as a guard or center."

Johnson recorded more than 100 tackles for Rushville, which plays eight-man football, in each of the past three seasons. Against district rival Crawford this fall he made 21 stops. The Omaha World Herald named him a first-team all-state defensive selection as a junior and senior.

Johnson poses with his family while signing his national letter-of-intent to play for ISU.

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