Big Lineman Loves Vols

Standing 6-foot-41/2 and weighing 315 pounds, Brandon Johnson of Memphis Whitehaven High School should have been as easy to track as a jumbo jet in an empty sky, but somehow he managed to evade most radar screens until he touched down at a couple of senior football camps.

"Most people are looking at me as an offensive guard or a center," he said. "I've never played center but I went up to the Ole Miss camp and the Tennessee camp and I played center. I was pretty good actually so they're looking at me there, too."

Johnson's size made an immediate impression of the coaching staffs at Ole Miss and his agility showed he had the potential to help on either side of the football. He's filled a starting role on both sides of the line during his sophomore and junior seasons and will play both again as a senior.

"I play offensive right tackle and offensive right guard," he said. I play nose tackle on defense.

"We had an average season, 5-5. Overall my season was pretty good but it wasn't what I wanted with us going 5-5. I think we'll have a much better team effort this year."

Johnson is hoping to help improve his team's record this year as well as boost his college stock.

"Right now my bench is 320 (pounds)," he said. "I'm working on it. I want to get at least 400. My max on the squat is 500 and I think the last time I did the power clean I had 225 on the bar.

Johnson is currently focusing his efforts on increasing his speed and quickness.

"Right now I'm working with a running backs coach to improve my speed," he explained. "That's what I'm mainly working on now. He has me running with one of those big 18-wheeler tires. He ties it around me with a water hose and I run the field all day."

There's nothing lacking in Johnson's blocking technique and it was his ability to lay out defenders that earned him the nickname .

"One day in practice I hit a guy and he fell in slow motion," Johnson said. "I was blocking and he was pass rushing. After that my teammates starting calling me Matrix."

Although he has yet to receive a scholarship offer, Johnson has generated some strong interest after his appearances at the Ole Miss and Tennessee camps. In truth, there's only one college he is interested in attending.

"I loved the Tennessee camp," he said. "Ole Miss is a good school, but overall, I want to end up going to Tennessee. The coaches make you feel at home. They push you to work. I need somebody to help me work. The facilities are real nice. They showed me around. I liked all of it, the team room, the locker room, the practice facilities, the weight room, Everything was nice and I get a home feeling when I go up there."

Johnson freely admits he's always favored Tennessee when it comes to football.

"I was actually a Tennessee fan growing up," he said. "Stanley Morgan is a longtime friend of the family. My mom does his wife's hair. She's been doing her hair for a long time, since I was small. He's been in town and I've met him. They go to a lot of functions and things here in Memphis."

Although he says he prefers playing defense, Johnson, who plans to major in business, will gladly play on the offensive line if it helps his career.

"I prefer defense but if my best chance is playing offensive line I'll do that," he said. "Coach Troop (Trooper Taylor) is talking to Coach Salisbury. That's my head coach and he keeps me informed about it."

With improved quickness and a solid senior season, Matrix may just be a featured attraction come national signing day.

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