Reliving the glory days sometimes involves a barbecue, a night out on the town or even a a pick-up game.
Ryan Johnson’s idea of bringing memories of the past forward will involve his trying to keep himself between the ball carrier and preseason All-America defensive end Derek Barnett.
Barnett and Johnson were teammates at Brentwood Academy just outside of Nashville. Two seasons after Barnett left the Eagles to wreak havoc on opponents for the Tennessee Volunteers, Johnson gets the chance to strut his stuff for the Orange & White.
Teammates once again.
After being committed since July 2014, the Scout four-star offensive tackle Johnson signed with Tennessee in February and makes the physical move to Knoxville this week with an opportunity to go up against Barnett in practices on Haslam Field right around the corner.
“We’ve been excited about that, going back and butting heads again,” Johnson told InsideTennessee. “Of course we’re going to be going right up against each other, so that will be fun, back to the good ole days. I’m always looking forward to blocking one of the best defensive ends in college football. I think that will make me better.”
The 6-foot-3, 257-pound Barnett has 20 sacks and 33 tackles for loss with 15 quarterback hurries in 26 games for the Vols. He projects by WalterFootball.com to be the No. 6 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“That’s tremendous help for me because just like the old saying goes, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’” Johnson said. “Playing the best in practice only makes you play better in the games. So if you can play the best in practice, there’s nothing you can go up against that’s going to make you budge.”
The Tennessee defensive front, on paper, is one of the deepest and most talented the program has had in recent memory. That unit will need a challenge from its teammates on the other side of the football.
Adding length to the Vols' group of blockers was something coach Butch Jones and his staff centered in the cross-hairs with the 2016 group. Joining the Scout 300 member Johnson at offensive line with this incoming class are four-star Marcus Tatum of Mainland (Fla.) High School and three-star Nathan Niehaus of Colerain (Ohio) High School.
“I’ve known Marcus Tatum for quite awhile now, got the chance to talk to him and hang out with him,” Johnson said. “He’s a very smart individual, and we get along pretty well. I’m glad that he’s part of the team now. I think he’s a great addition, and I think we can really use him. It’s going to be fun playing with him.
“Nathan, I think I’ve met him once or twice. I’ve watched some film on him, and I’ve talked to him a little bit. He seems like a nice guy. I’ve been texting him. I actually added him to the group text when he committed — I added both of them. But I think Nathan is a nice guy and he’s really going to help the team. He’s a very good athlete, a great addition.”
Johnson, whose father Jerry “Tyke” Johnson played along the offensive front at Austin Peay, carried a 4.7 grade point average at Brentwood Academy. Expectations are for the mid-state product to wear No. 70 for the Orange & White. Niehaus, Johnson, Tatum and the other freshmen should take part in their first collegiate classes on June 2.