Last weekend, Pendleton (SC) four-star defensive end Brad Johnson finally got a first-hand, unofficial visit look at a school he’s long had among his standouts.
Johnson was on hand for Virginia Tech’s 54-17 blowout of East Carolina Saturday, his first ever visit to Blacksburg. He spoke to coaches, toured a bit of the campus and came away with a different perspective.
Johnson has now also narrowed his list down to a top four following the visit. But other schools not in that group are still in contention, as he tries to nail down a visit schedule.
At Virginia Tech, Johnson said he was surprised with a few aspects. That came from what he saw and heard, from guys like coach Justin Fuente.
“I got to talk to the whole coaching staff, even Coach Fuente when I got there,” Johnson said. “After the game, I talked to Coach Wiles and Coach Foster. I talked to Coach Shibest, too. I got to talk to the strength coaches, we looked at the indoor facility. We just toured everything around the stadium and stuff. The facilities were amazing. I told Coach Shibest, I just love the way the stadium was set up, with the indoor facility outside, weightlifting next door and the tunnel makes it right there.”
Special teams coordinator James Shibest has been Johnson’s primary recruiter. And Johnson said he likes the bond they have so far.
“He was the first coach I talked to,” Johnson said. “But Coach Wiles is the D-line coach, so I talk to him often, too. The vibe I got is they said they really needed me. They haven’t had any commits at the D-end position, so that was something they’re looking for and need. They thought I was a guy who could help out early in the jump. They have a D-end leaving this year. They need someone to come in and help out.”
Johnson said he also liked the feeling he got from the visit and from the conversations he had.
“Being on the campus, I really got the family vibe from the staff,” he said. “Even the fans and players, I got the vibe. Coach Fuente talked about it in his office, how places say they have a family vibe, but I actually got it at Virginia Tech.”
Now that he’s experienced the Hokies in person, Johnson said he has them in a good position at this point.
“It’s definitely a school I wanna take an official to,” he said. “Narrowing my recruitment down, they’re definitely gonna be in that final group when I make a decision.”
Johnson said he’s now narrowed his list to a top four, of Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Tennessee and Notre Dame. No other visits are set right now, but Johnson said he could possibly visit the Irish officially before the end of the season.
“Those four have really been the four recruiting me the hardest,” he said. “It feels like they actually need me, instead of me just being a bonus to have me on the team.”
With the in-state Gamecocks, Johnson said he likes what he’s seen and heard. But Johnson said he’s also keeping a few other schools in close consideration, too.
“I haven’t been to a game at SC, but the last time I went was towards the end of the summer,” Johnson said. “They had a cookout and I went there for that. I wanna go to Texas A&M or Georgia game coming up, for an unofficial.”
Johnson isn’t sure when he’ll be ready to decide. But as he continues to get to that point, he said he’ll be looking hard at a few characteristics.
“It’ll probably come down to how bad the team needs me, how bad the coaches want me and how I fit best,” Johnson said. “Really, the place I feel most comfortable at. I want to decide before signing day. I’d like to commit before the end of 2016. I’d say probably between end of my season and Christmas.”