As of Sunday, Ryan Johnson has been verbally committed to Tennessee for 555 days. In just 10 more, he signs a National Letter of Intent with the Volunteers and it all becomes official.
The Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy offensive tackle got something of a reward for his being faithful to the Big Orange and a believer in the direction of the program by experience an all-expense-paid official visit to Rocky Top.
“Oh man, it was awesome,” Johnson told InsideTennessee. “I had a great time. I got to spend quality time with coach (Butch) Jones and all of the other coaches since everybody else ended up canceling (due to snow). So, it was almost a one-on-one kind of thing. I got to spend some time with them. I got to hang out with (Tennessee freshman offensive lineman) Jack (Jones) and the other offensive linemen. I got to spend some time with them and hang out. I went over to some peoples’ houses. I went over to (quarterback Joshua) Dobbs’ house and spend some time over there for a little while. I had a good time. It was real fun.
“I know a ton of players up there and some of them I’ve even played with. We already had good relationships, so that only made it better. I got to hang out with them and just kind of see what college life is really all about.
“I don’t know how you can go to Tennessee and not be amazed by the coaches, the facilities, just the atmosphere up there. It’s just amazing. There’s nowhere else like it.”
The visit also included time at Butch Jones’ house and Johnson “beat some people at ping-pong.”
Vols defensive end Derek Barnett and defensive back RaShaan Gaulden both played at Brentwood Academy in their prep days. In December, Johnson helped the Eagles bring home something those types of players weren’t able to — a TSSAA Division II Class AA state championship.
“They were really excited about the state championship,” Johnson said. “We had been working for that. I know it’s something…like for Derek, something he didn’t get a chance to have. He just seemed very happy. We were talking about the state championship, and I know it’s not as good as getting it for himself but still we won it for those guys that we played with who never got a chance to win a state championship.”
A major recruiting weekend lies ahead as Tennessee welcomes a deep bucket of talent on Jan. 29. Johnson may not be able to attend to help in the effort to bolster his signing class.
“I would love to if I could possibly do that,” he said. “I’m trying to see if I can do that but right now, at this point, I don’t think I can.”
Johnson is at work with a trainer to build his body up for Southeastern Conference football. He checked in at 6-feet-6, 288 pounds this weekend. He is also on the Brentwood Academy track team, taking part in discus and shot-put.
“I’m doing a little bit of running. I’m trying to keep myself in shape, get stronger and get bigger,” he said.
“They (Tennessee coaches) really aren’t too concerned about my weight. They said they want somewhere between 290-300 but that’s about where I want to be.”
Johnson does not care what number Tennessee issues him and does not yet know who his three roommates will be.
“I know quite a few of them pretty well,” Johnson said. “We’re a tight group. We text almost every day. So, we try to stay in touch and keep talking.
“I don’t know what number I’m going to wear right now, but I will wear whatever number they want me to and I just want to play whatever position I can play. I want to play tackle, but I’ll play whatever position that I can play. Heck, if they want to give me No. 16 and put me at quarterback, I’ll take that. Something tells me that they ain’t gonna do that.”