When Philadelphia, Miss. standout C.J. Johnson committed to Dan Mullen and the in-state Bulldogs last October, he became – and remains – the team’s top land for the 2011 class.
Three days after he gave Mullen his verbal, Johnson visited Baton Rouge for the Tigers bout with top-ranked Florida. Nearly nine months later, the trip’s memories still hold weight.
“The atmosphere was just crazy, that’s the only way to describe it,” said Johnson, who made the trip with friends from Philadelphia High. “Outside of the stadium there were some guys grilling up all this gator meat, and then fans were swarming all the Florida people and screaming Tiger Bait.
“Inside the stadium it was just as hype. It left a pretty lasting impression.”
While the Tigers have already landed an elite outside linebacker in the Lone Star State’s Trevon Randle, a commitment from Johnson – also ranked among the top 10 prospects at his position – would give Les Miles a 1-2 punch from the 2011 group that the Tigers haven’t seen from a linebacker recruiting class recently.
Nursing an ankle injury, Johnson won’t camp with any colleges this summer, meaning that his June visit to Baton Rouge for Family Day will go over as one of the only trips outside of Starkville that the rising senior prospect will make before the fall arrives.
“That weekend was fun, and it was good because my parents had never had the chance to see LSU and get around the coaches,” said Johnson, who made the trip with both parents . “We spent pretty much the entire day hanging out with the staff. It definitely helped me see LSU in a good light.”
While Johnson has tabbed Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU as the four teams outside of the Bulldogs that continue to jockey for his services, it appears that the work done by Miles and Co. have moved the Tigers into a favorable position headed into the four-star prospect’s stretch of official visits.
“I feel like LSU is really the only team that has a chance of making me change my mind from Mississippi State,” Johnson said. “Alabama has started to back off because they got the feeling that I wasn’t going to switch, and I’m not certain on Tennessee and Ole Miss. If I did make a switch, I feel like it would be to LSU.”
Set to compete in January’s U.S. Army All-American game, Johnson will take as many as five visits before announcing his final decision in San Antonio.
“I’m just taking it slow right now,” he said. “I’m comfortable with Mississippi State and like the direction things are headed, but I’m definitely still doing all my research and listening to the other coaches who want to recruit me to their school.”