LB Austin Johnson from Hickory (NC) High School wasted no time in making his verbal commitment- having pledged to Tennessee last September. However, that hasn't stopped several other schools from pursuing the standout linebacker, including NC State.
At 6-2, 225 pounds, Johnson plays middle linebacker for Hickory and that's his likely destination in college. He finished off his junior year with 117 tackles and six sacks en route to all-district and all-state honors. In fact, he was the top vote-getter of all the linebackers on the all-state squad.
On the field, Johnson plays with a non-stop motor and always finds a way to get to the ball carrier. Physically, he has the look of a division one player already.
Those traits were exactly what led to an early scholarship offer from the Vols and it didn't take long for Johnson to accept. Still, he wants to make sure he's making the absolute best decision for his future.
"I committed to Tennessee a while back," said Johnson. "They just came at me real early and I really didn't know what to expect. I was kind of young so I thought it was cool to get that offer but I never really thought I'd be getting this much interest.
"The thing I want to do is make sure it's the right place for me, that I fit in and I'm going to get a decent amount of playing time."
A few of the teams that have stayed in touch with Johnson in spite of his commitment to Tennessee are NC State, UNC, Notre Dame and Alabama. The rising senior talked about NC State.
"They've been keeping in touch with me and they seem interested," he said. "They've been sending a lot of mail. I like the new head coach there and he seems like a good guy. It's close to home and they've got really nice facilities. I grew up liking NC State because they were always kind of like the hometown team for me. Right now I don't have any plans to visit them so I'll probably wait until they invite me up."
Johnson projects as an academic qualifier and will likely be rated as one of the top 15 players in North Carolina for the class of 2008.
Scouting Report: Austin Johnson has all the measurables to be a very solid middle linebacker with great size, good strength, and leadership on the field. Does not dominate in the run game, especially on outside runs, and gets caught up in offensive linemen who get into the second level quickly. His defensive line hurts the ability for him to run free, but there are times where he sees the hole and explodes through it. Playing fullback, he is able to show a little more of his power and athleticism, and he may have a future on that side of the ball. -Scout Analyst Miller Safrit