Sleeping in Carolina

After committing six prospects in four days of camp last week, you might figure that prolific camp-to-campus pipeline has run drier than a Death Valley mud hole, but you just might be wrong.

There are other prospects from last week that made a strong impression and UT's staff is considering offering. One of those is a sleeper defensive end from Charlotte, N.C., with eye-opening skills.

As you probably recall from the Vols big haul there were a couple of talented, albeit, low-profile prospects that committed in offensive linemen Kevin Revis, of Rhea County, and JerQuari Schofield of Akiens, S.C. A third, quarterback Bryce Petty of Midlothian, Texas, is ranked No. 29 among the nation's signal callers but only had offers from New Mexico and Portland State. Or was it New Mexico State and Portland? Either way you get the drift. Petty had more suits than suitors.

Impervious to second guessers, UT's staff didn't feel a need to justify the offer, but saw it as another asset in the coffers. Until proven otherwise, who could blame them?

So it should come as no surprise, the Vols could be ready to take another no-name with known game in Brian Johnson of Meyers Park High School in Charlotte. Johnson is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker/defensive end, who may have been overlooked due to the Mustangs 3-7 record in 2007.

Despite a .300 winning percentage, Johnson put up solid numbers with 78 tackles, six sacks, 15 hurries and two blocked kicks to earn all-conference recognition.

"This year it's going to be different, Johnson said of the Mustangs upcoming campaign. "We've got a good core of returning players. We're more of a team now than we were last year."

Johnson also believes he is a better player and has been putting in the sweat equity to assure it pays dividends this fall. That's saying something seeing what a disruptive element and imposing presence he was as a junior.

"I played the whole year and I did good there just wasn't a lot of help on the defensive line," he said. "We didn't have any other pass rush really. I had six sacks and 15 hurries. I thought I had more than that because I slapped a whole bunch of quarterbacks. They won't hold onto the ball down here and they just stopped running to my side."

That frustration fuels his determination and energizes his self-improvement efforts this summer.

"We lift and run hard every day," he said. "We do max and reps. On the bench press I do 225 (pounds) 17 times and I max 335. I've been working out since the seventh grade."

His hard work is also paying off on the camp circuit including the stop he made at Rocky Top for senior camp.

"I had a great camp up there," Johnson exclaimed. "Coach Brooks said when everybody gets back from vacation and Coach Fulmer gives the word they will offer."

Johnson has picked up offers from Miami of Ohio and Western Carolina. He is also prominent on the radar of both North Carolina and N.C. State.

"N.C. State verbally offered a long time ago," he said. "They haven't sent me the papers because they're waiting for me to come to camp. They don't know if they want me at linebacker or defensive end. Western Carolina offered me. Miami of Ohio offered me. I think North Carolina will offer this week."

The question of where he'll play remains open and may well be subject to the dictates of physiology. That's also where his potential could follow a career arch similar to that of former Vol defensive lineman Justin Harrell, who came to UT as an unheralded tight end but left an NFL first round draft choice after growing into a formidable defensive tackle.

"It depends on how I grow, Johnson said when asked what position he'd prefer. "My dad went from 6-3 to 6-8 in college and he put on 50 pounds in the first two years just playing basketball without heavy lifting. I don't play basketball. I'd foul out too quick."

Quickness is a Johnson attribute which when combined with his his 4.75 speed, excellent lateral movement and nonstop motor is an irrepressible combination.

"I ran around a 4.7 at Tennessee," he explained. "I know it was the fastest of the defensive ends at camp. I work out hard and run hard about every day. That's what separates prospects."

A relentless pursuer of passers and a passionate regulator against the run, the prospect some refer to as the Big Freak knows how to stand out from the crowd.

"We played a team last year that tried to run the speed option on me," Johnson said when asked for a sample of his commando style of play. "The tackle he blocked down and I pushed him away. I ended up grabbing the quarterback and the running back and put them both down."

As much as he enjoyed that play nothing lights up his world like turning a quarterback's lights out.

"There was another play when we were playing a team called Providence," he said. "I made two sacks in a row and the third time I came I could see the fear in the quarterback's eyes. He ended up just letting the ball go. The back caught it and lost about 10 yards."

Although Johnson would like to make a decision by as early as July, he's willing to wait for a Tennessee offer to arrive. That's because Vols assistant Dan Brooks has done a superb job of establishing a strong relationship based on more than football.

"He's a great guy," Johnson said of Brooks. "The first time he called me we talked more about me as a person than football. He's a guy that cares about you as a person too, not just what you can do for him on the field. He's a pretty straight up guy. He didn't pull my leg or nothing. He didn't tell me anything extra like we're going to offer you when you come to camp. He just straight up told me to come to camp and we'll see. When he tells me he thinks I've got a real good chance of them offering me a scholarship I believe what he says."

He also believes in himself and his ability to play in the SEC or ACC.

"I'm not the biggest defensive end but I'm one of the fastest," he said. "It's going to be Tennessee, North Carolina State and North Carolina. Tennessee is really my favorite one. I may be a Volunteer."


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