AUBURN, Ala. — On Sunday morning, Gus Malzahn called Thomas Johnston into his office with a request.
Auburn is working to secure a fullback in the 2017 class to add some depth behind Chandler Cox at H-back. Johnston is known more for being a linebacker — Alabama’s all-time career tackles leader, in fact — but the Tigers are shooting to bring Johnston on as an offensive player instead.
Malzahn wanted Johnston to commit. Johnston wants to wait until Jan. 26, the date he plans to announce.
“Everybody else is looking at me as a linebacker. I also told them if I did play H-back in college, it would be at Auburn just because of what they do with them,” Johnston said. “Coach Malzahn told me that he wants me to play for his team. He wants me just to be around. He said I’m a fit for Auburn and I mean that says a lot. He asked me to commit this morning and asked where I stood. I know I’m at the top of their list right now so I’m excited about it.”
Johnston already has taken two of his official visits. He went to Arkansas on Oct. 14 and Iowa on Dec. 3. Originally, Johnston planned to go to Arizona State this weekend, but he altered plans to fit in an Auburn official visit prior to his Jan. 26 decision day. He still has an official visit to Ole Miss next weekend and plans to find out more about its NCAA-sanction situation before closing in on his decision.
He wants to finish all his official visits before narrowing in on a plan because, after his Arkansas official visit, he recognized how easy it is to become entranced by a school.
“Right after I left (Arkansas), I said, ‘This is the school for me.’ But a couple days later, I was like, ‘Hold up now, I’ve got these other schools I want to check out,'” Johnston said. “I definitely want to take a couple days after, and I’ll be ready.”
It might seem strange that Auburn doesn’t want Johnston as a linebacker, but he understands it. The Tigers have nobody behind Cox on the depth chart right now. A freshman would have the chance to play right away. Plus, with Johnston, they know he’s a gamer who would succeed at any position a football coach put him.
But as someone with 675 career tackles, it might be tough to convince Johnston to play another position, especially on the other side of the ball.
So, why does Auburn have a chance?
“Just the way they use their H-back. It’s not just blocking. They have fun with them. They have different formations. They even line up at receiver every once in a while,” Johnston said. “That would be fun. I’m excited to see where God puts me. I’m just going to pray about it. He’s going to put me where I need to be.”