Seven months after Anthony Johnson committed to Lane Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee, the five-star defensive tackle prospect had a change of plans.
A driving factor in the move was former O.P. Walker High head coach Frank Wilson, who was a member of the Tennessee staff when Johnson committed. Last December, Wilson was offered the running backs coaching position and LSU, which he accepted. He also became the team’s new recruiting coordinator, a role that put him in prime position to begin building the in-state class for 2011 – which is stacked with much of the nation’s elite junior talent.
To say that Johnson, who committed within the month after Wilson’s hire, was a top priority would be an understatement.
“LSU had already made it clear that they needed me to stay home for college, but coach Frank let me know that it wasn’t much of an option,” laughed Johnson. “He has been like a father to me throughout this process, and I trust his outlook on things. Coach let me know that LSU was headed in the right direction, and it was my job to make sure the team got back to the top.”
The message was well received across the board. Johnson’s mother, upon hearing the news of the switch, burst into tears. LSU message boards were flooded with proud fans. The Tiger staff, according to Johnson, could barely contain their enthusiasm.
Yet perhaps most important to the future of the program was the response from the rest of the in-state class. Prior to his pledge, the Tigers had commitments from only Jeremy Hill and La’el Collins. On the day he gave the staff his word, LSU added pledges from Corey White and Kenny Hilliard. Since then, four more names have joined on board. In total, eight of the nine commitments are from Louisiana.
“The rest of the guys that are committed with me are the ones who really appreciated my switch,” Johnson said. “We have a strong sense of pride for our home state, and we are together in wanting to make LSU the best. After this class gets onto campus, LSU will be hard to stop. That is the main thing that has us so excited.”
This weekend, Johnson and a few of those names will be on the LSU campus for a Saturday visit.
“We are coming in town to watch the team practice and then scrimmage,” said Johnson, who has yet to take in any spring workouts this offseason. “I was supposed to get to Alabama a couple of weeks ago, but I decided not to go, which means this is my first chance to see anyone go at it this spring.
“If I do make any visits to other campuses, they won’t happen until camps this summer or the official trips in the fall,” Johnson said. “This weekend will be about kicking it with the coaches and some of the players. Seeing those guys always gets me excited about my future.”
In the classroom, Johnson remains on the expected course.
“I just made a 21 on the ACT, and I was also on the honor roll for the third straight semester,” he said. “I am dedicated to my work in the classroom, so that will never be a problem with me.”