Imhotep (Philadelphia, Pa.) three-star offensive tackle Justin Johnson returned to Maryland for a second time April 14, and he’s contemplating heading to College Park, Md., for a third foray April 22. The 6-foot-7, 345-pounder has thoroughly enjoyed both of his spring stays at UMD and seems to be particularly high on head coach D.J. Durkin’s program.
“It’s a real good school,” said Johnson, who has offers from UMD, UVA, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Pitt, Boston College, Oregon, Temple and a couple more. “Coach Durkin, he took them to a bowl game his first year, they just had a nice recruiting class in 2017, and they’re building a good class in 2018. They look good going forward under Coach Durkin; he’s really turning things around.”
Johnson saw Maryland initially in late March. He said he got a “real personal” feel from the staff and community during that trip. The Imhotep product lauded the coaching staff, the university, the academics and “all the other football stuff.”
“Seeing all of that the first time was very important to me. But the second time down there [on April 14] I got to see the team in action in a game-like atmosphere,” Johnson said. “I saw a scrimmage and how Coach [Tyler] Bowen interacted with the linemen. Coach Bowen wasn’t trying to be one of the guys; he was trying to really coach them. He did a really good job interacting and teaching. I liked what he was doing.
“So I observed him and the line, and really everyone. It was a lot of great competition, just seeing how the players responded to different moments during the scrimmage. It was high energy the way the coaches ran things, and I liked the different offensive concepts they put it. Overall, I really liked what I saw.”
After the practice, Johnson spoke extensively to Bowen. He also chatted up area recruiter Anthony Tucker and head coach D.J. Durkin.
“[Bowen and I] sat down and talked, we went over what they did in practice, and then talked about how I could have a big impact there. We talked about the future and all that. It was a real good talk,” Johnson said. “Then I talked to Coach Tucker. Me and Coach Tucker and Coach Bowen, we talk like every day. We’re always hitting each other up, and Coach Tucker makes sure I’m doing OK. We have a good relationship.
“Then I sat down with Coach Durkin in his office. We talked about the types of guys he wants in his program and how I fit the bill. It was a good conversation.”
So, is Johnson closing in on a commitment, perhaps if/when he returns to College Park for the spring game April 22?
“I really can’t say at the moment. But I will say that I have been talking a lot to my former teammate, DJ Moore, who is there. I didn’t have a chance to play with DJ, but I can relate to him, and what he’s been saying has opened my eyes. He’s a good reference for me and can tell it like it is. It’s like he’s a role model for me, because he understands where I’m coming from,” Johnson said. “And, also, it’s a really good experience down there at Maryland, and it’s close so I can get there a lot. Maryland has a lot going for it.”
Johnson has no other trips planned besides the potential jaunt to UMD April 22. He said he’s not really pushing to venture out since he’s in workouts and ready to focus on his senior season.
“I’m unsure when I want to commit, but I do want it to be soon,” said Johnson, who mentioned coaches from Maryland, UVA, Oregon and maybe one or two others are in touch most frequently. “The whole recruiting process, I enjoy it, but it can be stressful too. So I’d say my decision will come at an unexpected date. When I feel comfortable, I’ll just come out and [commit]. I’m not doing this for publicity or anything; when I’m ready, I’ll let everyone know.”