Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with one of Alabama’s top nose tackle targets.
Alabama makes a move for one of the top nose tackles
Jeffery Johnson visited Tuscaloosa for the first time last weekend. Before the trip, he was mainly only considering Florida State and Ole Miss. We can now add Alabama in the mix.
“I really enjoyed everything about it,” Johnson told SEC Country. “We didn’t get a chance to tour the campus, so I only got a glimpse of it. We got to go to inside the stadium, which was great. Alabama also has some great coaches. I love the coaches. I met with [defensive line] Coach [Karl] Dunbar and we talked about a bunch of things. I met with Coach Saban in his office. He told me a lot of good things.”
Johnson, a 3-star defensive tackle from Brookhaven (Miss.) High School, is one of Alabama’s top nose tackle targets in the 2018 class. Nose tackle is one of the Tide’s top priorities this year because Da’Ron Payne is a likely candidate to declare for the NFL draft after this season and Joshua Frazier will have exhausted all of his eligibility.
The 6-foot-3 1/2, 336-pound prospect wasn’t aware of the Tide’s depth chart situation at nose tackle moving forward before his 1-on-1 meeting with Saban.
“I didn’t know they really needed some nose tackles in this class,” Johnson said. “That was great to hear. They need to recruit several nose tackles this season because that’s what they base their defense on.”
Early playing time isn’t a big factor for Johnson, he says. He just wants the opportunity to see the field early in his career. Johnson will be an early enrollee at the school of his choice, so that will give him a leg up on normal freshmen who choose to enroll in the summer instead of the spring.
Johnson has been hearing from the Alabama staff multiple times per week, but it’s not as often as he hears from the Ole Miss staff (more on that below). He said that doesn’t hurt Alabama’s chances with him, but he would like to see more of the school.
“I think I need to get back there and see the campus some more,” Johnson said. “I’m planning on taking an official visit there. I just have to talk it over with my mom. She’s never been to a college football game before.”
Johnson is planning on being at the Alabama-Florida State game at the beginning of the season as an unofficial visitor. He will not be allowed to speak with the coaches while on the visit because it’s a neutral site game, though.
It seems like Florida State is not prioritizing Johnson as strongly as Alabama or Ole Miss. Johnson mentioned how he hasn’t been talking with the Seminoles coaching staff much and they frequently ignore his calls.
He also made it clear that he believes Florida State’s situation at nose tackle isn’t as appealing as Alabama’s or Ole Miss’.
“Everyone wants to play at Alabama,” Johnson said. “I have told everyone that I just need to see how it works out. They have a lot of good players at Alabama. Florida State has a ton of defensive linemen. I’d rather go to a school that I would have a chance to be rotated in as a true freshman.”
Johnson has been battling an issue with elevated muscle enzymes. He hasn’t been able to work out or play football since May. He actually got cleared to participate in athletic activity by the Alabama sports trainers last weekend.
His first high school practice is Monday, and there’s going to be some work that needs to be done.
“I’m fat and need to get back in shape,” Johnson said with a laugh.
The Ole Miss cloud over Jeffery Johnson’s recruitment
Jeffery Johnson’s phone was dead around 7:30 ET on July 20 — the night Hugh Freeze resigned as Ole Miss head coach.
Johnson is one of Ole Miss’ top priority targets in the Class of 2018, and for several hours, he didn’t know Freeze was no longer the Rebels’ coach.
“I turned my phone on and my phone was blowing up from everyone asking me how it affects my decision,” Johnson told SEC Country. “I didn’t talk to anyone but the [Ole Miss] coaches after that. “I talked to [running backs] Coach [Derrick] Nix and [defensive line] Coach [Freddie] Roach. They were explaining it all to me, and I told them it wouldn’t affect my decision.”
The nation’s No. 37 defensive tackle also reached out to Freeze directly after he heard what transpired. Johnson contemplated whether or not he should text him in that moment because he figured Freeze’s phone was overloaded with calls and messages.
He decided to go ahead and reach out to the coach because they have developed a strong bond ever since Ole Miss has started recruiting Johnson.
“I texted Coach Freeze and told him what I think of it all,” Johnson said. “I told him that I still think he’s a great guy after all of this.”
Freeze actually replied back to Johnson’s message.
“I was shocked he responded because I was just saying there was no way he’d respond back,” Johnson said. “I went ahead and did it. He didn’t text back immediately because I’m sure his phone was busy. He just told me, ‘Thank you and I’m really proud of you.’”
Johnson said this is the first time he’s talked about Ole Miss and Freeze’s situation since the coach’s resignation. He’s been overwhelmed with messages and calls from people asking how Freeze no longer being there affects his recruitment.
“I don’t think it changes my decision at all,” Johnson said. “What they have going on — it has nothing to do with me. That’s a whole different story. I think Hugh Freeze is a great guy. I’ve been to Ole Miss probably like 20 times. I developed a strong relationship with him and all of the other coaches there. Hugh would call and check on me from time to time. This doesn’t affect my recruitment. I still love Ole Miss and everything about them.”
It did, however, alter his recruitment somewhat. Johnson said he was planning on making a commitment at the end of this month between Florida State and Ole Miss. All signs were pointing toward the Rebels, but he’s going to hold off on making a decision now. He’s not sure when a commitment could come, but he’s an early enrollee so he wants to get it done as soon as possible.
“It’s kind of hard. I have a really hard decision to make,” Johnson said. “I was planning on making a decision at the end of this month, but I told myself that it’s too hard. I have Alabama now in the picture. It’s going to be hard to make a decision with Ole Miss having everything going on. And, again, it doesn’t affect me, but it’s something that will be on my mind.”
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