While getting to the Dome with his Charger teammates would stamp Johnson’s high school career with the ultimate mark of success, the next four months at the New Orleans High school will also be his final days.
By January, Johnson – a five-star prospect and the nation’s No. 3 ranked defensive tackle – hopes to be an hour down the road dressed in purple and gold.
“I talked with the coaches over at LSU and my teachers here at school and I will become a mid-term graduate,” Johnson said. “It was a move that I had talked about and hoped to do, but I wasn’t sure until recently if I was going to be able to make it work.”
After lengthy discussions with everyone from LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson to the principal and guidance counselors at O.P. Walker, Johnson got the go-ahead.
“I will take four classes this semester, and then that wraps everything up for me,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned the plan is getting to Baton Rouge next January, and from there I will have about a five-month head start on the rest of the guys from this 2011 class.”
While Johnson’s early enrollment secures his pledge pre-National Signing Day, just as important is the 6-foot-3, 289-pounder’s early arrival to a thin defensive tackle position.
Projected as a candidate for immediate playing time, Johnson will battle Mike Brockers, Josh Downs, Chris Davenport and Bennie Logan for a spot in the two-deep next spring. Perhaps a sign of how much the five-star tackle’s presence is needed, both Davenport and Logan were passed on the depth chart by a walk-on during August fall camp workouts.
“The coaches are telling me that I am looking at coming in and playing right away If I stay on course, and enrolling in January and getting on with the team right away is only going to help that,” Johnson said. “It’s something that I know I can do, both academically and physically. When you are ready for that next step, there is not a point in putting it off any longer.”
Outside of academics, Johnson pointed to his two-sport high school life as the one area that held him back from making the early call.
“I have always played basketball, so I had to get with the coaches and ask them if this was a move that they supported and thought I should make,” he said. “They were all for it. Everyone over here in New Orleans has nothing but support for me, and I know I’m going to be feeling that same love when I get to Baton Rouge.”
With his attention now turned to cleaning up his game for the SEC, Johnson said that focus across this final stretch of high school football would be at an all-time high.
“I want to clean up my technique and work it to where I am successful with a couple of different moves,” Johnson said. “I’ve relied on that strength and my quickness off the ball a lot, but if I can get all the technique down then I’m confident that it’s going to be great transition to college.
“With all the focus I’m going to have on making sure things are right, my game should see a big boost.”