Coach's Take: Ben Johnson

Wednesday afternoon, Basehor (KS) Linwood tight end Ben Johnson received a scholarship offer from Kansas head coach Charlie Weis - and a day later he pulled the trigger on the opportunity. Friday, Phog.net spoke with Bobcats head coach Steve Hopkins about what the Jayhawks are getting in the 6-foot-6, 227-pound junior prospect.

Here's the thing about Ben Johnson.

At 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, he's a physical specimen, but he's not just big. He's athletic and strong, fast for his size with excellent hands and instincts. Playing tight end for Basehor (KS) Linwood High in 2011, Johnson hauled in a team-best 56 receptions for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His combination of size, athleticism and on-the-field production was drawing attention from a number of Division One programs - programs with names like Arkansas, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

Ask his coach, Steve Hopkins, about him, however, and he'll say there's something about Johnson that stands out even more.

"His character is as strong or stronger than his athleticism," Hopkins said. "And that's high praise from me, because he's one of the best athletes I've ever seen. He's a phenomenal student, and just a gentleman."

The weekend of Feb. 11, Johnson was part of a crowd of visitors at the University of Kansas, for the football program's Junior Day. He came back fired up, Hopkins said, enamored with their facilities and also their coaching staff - their conviction and plan for righting the ship in Lawrence, Kan.

Hopkins has a lot of respect for Kansas offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, and the way he's recruited Johnson. The Jayhawks didn't want him just because of his athleticism, they wanted him because he was the type of person around which they wanted to build their program.

So when the scholarship offer came down from Head Coach Charlie Weis on Wednesday, Hopkins knew Johnson was excited. He's been a Jayhawks fan since he was a kid, after all, and his coach was pretty sure he was going to accept.

"He told me before he left the room (Wednesday), he said 'Coach, I don't believe in that word, 'de-commit,'" Hopkins recalled. "If I make a commitment to them, then I'm all in."

Thursday night, he did just that, announcing it publicly via Twitter and becoming the first member of the Kansas Class of 2013.

What are the Jayhawks getting in Johnson? According to Hopkins, the complete package at tight end. He's more than just a receiving threat, and has worked to improve his blocking skills immeasurably.

"The fact that he can do both is what makes him so valuable to us in high school," he said. "And I think will really pay off down the road."

That Weis has such a history of maximizing the potential of tight ends in his offense is another reason why the Jayhawks were such a good fit.

"He feels like they use the tight ends and that his skills fit there," Hopkins said. "And I agree completely. He attacks the ball when it's in the air, catches it with his hands and then he attacks a defender."

"What really, really sets him apart is the way he goes and attacks the ball with his hands," he added. "He is a yard-after-the-catch kind of kid. Yes, he's fast enough to get down the seam which is what everyone wants now, but he's physical after the catch, too."

A multi-sport star, Johnson is currently in the midst of a strong season with the Bobcats on the hardwood, with sub-state play looming. Check back with Phog.net in the coming weeks for an interview with the newest Jayhawk, once the basketball season comes to a close.


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