VAUGHT: Versatility is Johnson's key

If anyone wonders just how versatile and athletic linebacker William Johnson is, let his coach at Nashville Pearl-Cohn explain.

"He can play five positions, and did for us," said coach Tony Brunetti. "He played free safety, wide receiver, outside linebacker, tailback and slot receiver. He also returned kickoffs and punts. That's how athletic he is. How many linebackers do you know that can return punts? I doubt if there are many in the country who can."

He says the 6-3, 195-pound Johnson runs a legitimate 4.5 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash.

"He can run very, very well for his size. He's impressive," Brunetti said.

Brunetti says he thinks the Kentucky coaches were "shocked" when Johnson came on a visit in October with teammate Deaunte Mason, a quarterback who also has verbally committed to UK.

"They really liked his frame and they kept in contact with him. Then they came and watched him practice. Will is a football player. He just wants to play and he enjoys being out on the field every day," Brunetti said.

Sound familiar? Think back to linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who came to UK as a safety, moved to linebacker and led the Cats in tackles the last three years.

"He's already three inches taller than Wesley and he can easily put on another 30 pounds," Brunetti, who watched UK practice last week in Nashville before the Music City Bowl, said. "He will sacrifice for the team. He should have been a free safety for us, but we needed an outside linebacker. He made the move and had 12 sacks and two interceptions.

"He had over 700 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns on offense. He was great running back punts because he has no fear. He just loves to play and whatever you tell him to do, he's going to do it."

Brunetti thinks UK fans are going to "love" both Johnson and Mason.

"They are similar in a lot of ways. They are both athletic. They both do well academically. They are both great kids," Brunetti said. "They are both funny and can be jokesters. I am going to miss them. They are talented kicks, but they are even better people."

And just in case Brunetti had any questions about sending his players to Kentucky, he got the reinforcement he needed from Ed Burton, Keenan Burton's father, last week.

"He said they could not go wrong coming to Kentucky. He talked about how much Keenan loved playing there and how much he respected coach (Rich) Brooks and his staff. He didn't have a single bad thing to say about the UK program and talked about the great support the team gets," Brunetti said. "You can just tell this is a program that is coming on and I'm glad to have two of my kids going there to help."

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