Johnson follows his heart, commits to Vols

Ryan Johnson made a public declaration to play his college football at Tennessee. Get inside that commitment by reading about the Scout three-star offensive tackle prospect.

It’s not always easy to get orange blood out of a person.

Ryan Johnson has been a Tennessee fan since infancy. On Saturday, the Scout three-star offensive tackle prospect from Brentwood, Tenn., took a step from being a Volunteers fan to a Volunteer as he verbally committed to play his college football in Knoxville.

“Tennessee is my home state and the University of Tennessee is my home school,” Johnson told a Nashville radio station Saturday morning. “I’ve been rooting for them ever since I was able to say ‘Go Big Orange.’ My first game was when I was 3, so I watched Tennessee beat the crap out of Vanderbilt. That was my first game when I was 3-years-old. So, I’ve been rooting for them my whole life.

“But, the most important thing about Tennessee is the fact that at Tennessee my family and friends can see me playing at Tennessee and they can come every Saturday and support me and watch me play and that’s something the other schools can’t offer. I’m really excited about my decision.”

Johnson also cited “tradition and fan base” as reasons he chose Tennessee over other finalists Alabama and Ole Miss, which were the three places he camped. Florida State, Kansas State, Mississippi State and USC showed interest. Clemson, Notre Dame, Penn State and Stanford all asked Johnson to camp.

He said he was “blessed” and “thrilled” after getting the Tennessee scholarship offer back in mid-February.

Johnson says what he brings to the tackle position fits well with coordinator Mike Bajakian’s offense and line coach Don Mahoney’s scheme.

“I think they really like me especially for their style of offense because our school runs a fast-paced offense,” Johnson said. “It’s very similar to Tennessee’s. So, I think I would fit in very well with Tennessee’s offense.”

Vols assistant Don Mahoney has a coaching style that vibes with Johnson.
(Danny Parker/

Having seen Mahoney work on Haslam Field and seen the Volunteers block in person as late as the Vanderbilt game last November, Johnson has a great idea as to the type coaching he’ll receive in Knoxville.

“I really like his style of coaching,” Johnson told IT. “The thing I really like about coaches — and I see this in coach Mo — is that coach Mo teaches when he coaches. A lot of coaches don’t do that. Some of them scream, and they don’t really get their point across. If you do something wrong or do something different, he’ll stop and explain it to you. He won’t yell at you and say you’re doing something wrong but then don’t tell you what you’re doing wrong. He’ll stop and explain to you how to do it right and tell you what you’re doing wrong and then he’ll move on. He’s not going to get mad at you. He’s just going to explain it.”

The blocker with the nickname “Drago” for his likeness to the character Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, attended a Tennessee practice with several Eagles teammates during coach Butch Jones’ first spring on Rocky Top in March 2013. The Orange & White landed four-star defensive end Derek Barnett from BA in its 2014 class. Other BA grads to take their skills to Rocky Top include Kurston Biggers, Bubba Miller, Jeremy Spivey and Scott Wells.

Barnett and Johnson were joined by another Class of 2016 tackle via BA with a Tennessee at that practice in Bryce Mathews. The Vols staff could land Mathews as well.

“Definitely,” Johnson told InsideTennessee. “That’s a huge possibility for us. We both realize there’s only two tackle spots at a school and sometimes that doesn’t always work out with that school. But, us being such great friend that’d be a huge, huge thing for us.”

Johnson most recently visited Tennessee for the “Orange Carpet Day” in mid-June.

“The more time you spend at a school, no matter where it is, the more you build relationships and the more you get to know the coaches and the players,” he said.

Johnson also competes in the 400-meter for Brentwood Academy track. Academically, he carries a 4.3 grade point average.

Discuss Johnson's decision with InsideTennessee analysts and subscribers by clicking here.

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