BUFORD, Ga. — Netori Johnson was once committed to Alabama, but the last time he visited Tuscaloosa, which was for the start of spring practice, the vibe was different. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When Johnson was committed to Alabama, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was the staff member he connected the most with, mainly because Cristobal was going to be his position coach. Now he won’t if he were to recommit.
“I had to get to know Coach (Brent) Key, which is the centers and guards coach,” Johnson said of what he needed to get done on his visit to Alabama on March 11. “If I did attend Alabama, that would be my coach. Coach (Mario) Cristobal was going to be my coach when I was committed, but now he’s the tackles and tight ends coach, so it’s a little different.”
The message from Alabama is still the same. The coaching staff is trying to get Johnson back in the fold. But in order for that to happen, Johnson says he and Key have to continue developing their relationship.
“Right now, it’s casual,” Johnson said of his relationship with Key. “We tweet each other here and there. It’s nothing like what I had with Cristobal. We haven’t gotten on the level yet.”
When the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder decommitted from Alabama, he made it clear that the Crimson Tide were still No. 1. That’s no longer the case.
“I would still say that they are still at the top and are being looked at really, really hard by me,” Johnson said. “I don’t have an order anymore, but they are up there.”
To be clear: Alabama is still in his top group, along with Auburn and Georgia, but there are seven more schools lurking in the background — Florida, Ole Miss, LSU, Baylor, Michigan, Clemson and Florida State.
Auburn and Georgia may have an advantage though when it comes to his decision. His good friend and former Cedar Grove teammate, Antwuan Jackson, is a freshman defensive tackle at Auburn and his current teammate, offensive lineman Justin Shaffer, is committed to Georgia.
Johnson said he wants to play on the next level with his Cedar Grove teammates. Alabama currently does not have any players from his high school.
Johnson is rated as the nation’s No. 4 offensive guard and is the No. 13 overall prospect in Georgia.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.