North Hills (PA) running back Andrew Johnson isn't one to get carried away too much about the recruiting process. He has taken all the phone calls, letters and attention in stride, and hasn't let things get him stressed out.
At the same time, he's out to prove something this weekend. Johnson, a football/track star, will showcase his skills at the Nike Camp at Penn State on Sunday afternoon. He's ready to prove that unlike some other backs ranked ahead of him by some recruiting services, he's the real deal.
Johnson, who won the state championship in the 60 meters (6.90 seconds), ran a 10.61 in the 100 meters three weeks ago, and has been recently clocked at a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. He is out to prove this weekend that his speed is for real.
"There are a lot of guys out there that coaches are high on, and a lot of recruiting ranking places are high on them. Their coaches say they run a 4.4, and they go to these camps, and they run 4.6's," Johnson said. "I think I compare well to a lot of other backs in the country, plus I run track. The backs that I am bigger than, nine times out of 10, I'm faster than them. There aren't too many running backs that are faster than me. (Speed) isn't the only thing, but it helps."
Johnson, a 6-0, 205-pounder that transferred from Central Catholic High School after his sophomore season, is considered one of the top prospects in the state of Pennsylvania. He made the All-State team as a sophomore, rushing for 1,690 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last season, Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain early in the season, and aggravated it throughout the year. He had just 700 yards and eight touchdowns.
Johnson already has a handful of scholarship offers, including one from Wisconsin. During the first week of the May recruiting period, Michigan was the only school to stop in and talk to his coaches.
The Wolverines are also the only Big Ten school listed in his top five.
"Right now I would say my favorites are Pitt, UCLA, Michigan, Miami and Virginia Tech. Those are my top five right now," Johnson said. "I'm just looking forward to going to a school with a nice program. Weather would be nice, but it's not going to be a big thing in deciding. It probably won't be a big thing in deciding at all. Weather is weather. God controls that, and you can't do anything about it. It's not really a big deal."
While the Badgers are currently on the outside looking in for Johnson's services, he said the program is definitely on his radar screen. He said of his five favorites, he has only been to two campuses thus far, and the list could change over the summer as he does more research.
One factor in Wisconsin's favor is the presence of defensive tackle Andre Williams, a friend of Johnson's dating back to his days at Central Catholic.
"I started looking at (Wisconsin) my sophomore year, because Andre was up there, and we are good friends," Johnson said. "I haven't talked to Andre in a while, but I'm sure if I call him, I could just come up and stay with him for a while. It really wouldn't be a big thing…I just have to play everything by ear, (research) everything, (including) the recent success of the program."
Johnson said following Nike Camp this weekend, he will attend camp at Virginia Tech on May 17. He might attend a few more camps depending on his track schedule this summer.
He has been a Virginia Tech fan since his freshman year of high school, when he met Kevin Jones at the state indoor track championships.
"I really like him. I was just watching him, and I guess he was already good at that time, he was No. 1 in the country. But he turned into a real good college back, and I think he'll be good in the pros," Johnson said.
But the team to beat right now might be Pitt, which has sold Johnson on the fact he could be the missing piece the program needs to take it to the next level.
"A balanced offense is a real big deal to me, and that's the reason I like Pitt a lot," Johnson said. "They'll have (sophomore quarterback Tyler) Palko or (redshirt freshman quarterback Luke) Getsy and (wide receiver) Larry Fitzgerald. They are looking for that back to come in and be a home run back."
Johnson said when he begins to research schools, the No. 1 factor on his list will be his potential for early playing time. Despite his young age – he will be 17 years old his entire freshman season – Johnson wants to play immediately.
"I really don't want to sit. I mean, I'm younger than everybody else in my grade, and I know that will be a big thing with coaches, trying to sit me down and wanting me to wait," Johnson said. "But I think I've progessed this far, being the youngest one, why stop me now? I don't want to redshirt. I feel if I'm better (than the competition) I don't want them to redshirt me just because of age. I want a fair chance to play."
Johnson said he hasn't looked into Wisconsin's running back situation at this point. But when he does, things might not look too good for the Badgers.
Johnson Looks to Impress at Nike Camp
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