Coach's vision yields Johnson declaration

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Graduation and a possible early entry to the NFL Draft figure to hammer the starting lineup and depth at linebacker for Tennessee.

Don't worry. Help is on the way and another brick was added to the foundation on Rocky Top on Sunday as Jakob Johnson declared for Tennessee on the tail end of an official visit to Knoxville.

"It was a just a feeling that got bigger and bigger inside of me," Johnson said. "When I talked to my dad, I explained the situation and explained to him where I'm coming from. It started with the atmosphere and went on to the academic things — they've got the majors that I want to do. I explained things to my dad. He said, 'It's your decision. If you feel like that's the right place, then go ahead and do it. Don't overthink it, just go ahead and do it.'"

Johnson's parents and two sisters (ages 1 and 2) reside in Stuttgart, Germany. Plans are to see them during the Christmas break before enrolling at Tennessee in January. He played his senior season at Ribault (Fla.) High School with little experience for American-style football.

From the academics to the facilities to Southeastern Conference football to the fan support, Tennessee offers plenty to top recruits. However, it was first-year head coach Butch Jones that turned the head of Johnson.

"I've got to say coach Jones' vision for the program and what he wants to do with Tennessee," the linebacker told InsideTennessee. "We had a meeting in the beginning where he got to speak and told us his ideas and what he wanted to do with Tennessee. That really stuck out to me."

The Sunshine State resident gives the Orange & White 33 commitments for the Class of 2014, including six at linebacker.

The German transplant took in the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. The Big Orange were a last-second touchdown away from taking down their in-state rival before falling 14-10.

Wisdom was passed along to Johnson, warning him to not let the emotions of the moment play too great of a role with the destination for the next 3-5 years. However, he had a decent idea before flying to Knoxville that he would pull the trigger.

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"My coaches not to tell me to commit right away on my first visit, but Tennessee is everything I thought it was going to be. I was really just looking for the atmosphere. The only thing that would have kept me from coming to Tennessee would have been if the atmosphere was bad and everything.

"It was amazing for me to see how close this team is, like even how they stick together through those bad things. That was pretty great for me to see."

Johnson says back home in Germany they have "very dedicated" soccer fans but the atmosphere there "still doesn't compare" to Big Orange Country.

"Just the overall atmosphere," Johnson said. "The team and the coaching staff, it's like a real family type atmosphere. The fan base is really amazing. The team is struggling all throughout the season and still you've got like 90,000 people coming to their game. That's incredible."

Jones isn't the only coach on The Hill that appeals to Johnson. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen left his imprint as well.

"Coach Thig is a great coach. He told me what he's going to do with the players. I got a chance to talk to Curtis and A.J. Curtis told me he's a real good coach. When you go through his coaching, you're really going to be a great football player after that. He's going to teach you how to play the game to win."

Jakob Johnson paid attention while the Volunteers battled the Commodores. Starting middle linebacker A.J. Johnson had quite the game, registering 13 tackles. The new commit has potential to follow in A.J. Johnson's footsteps.

"That was one of the first things that Thig told me. He thinks of me as a player like A.J. or something like that. He thinks he can get me there."

Jakob Johnson says he's "not really sure" whether he fits in at linebacker on The Hill inside or outside: "I just like to play. I don't really care where they put me. I'll do both."

Johnson lost weight during season and had a cold that dropped his size down, but he still reports a frame at 6 feet 3 and 236 pounds. After visiting other college campuses like UCF and the trip home, Johnson plans to report to Knoxville on Jan. 4 and get started with his academic career with a possible double major in Kinesiology and Sports Management.

Johnson: "Tennessee is the place to be right now."

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the FOX Sports NEXT team July 2011.
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