As Jim McElwain tries to rebuild Florida football into a championship program, one of his mottos is “recruit daily or die.” Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of the latest UF recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
Safety is the biggest position of need for Florida in the 2018 recruiting cycle, but Tyreke Johnson won’t be a prospect to fill that void.
Johnson is ranked the nation’s No. 2 safety in the 247Sports Composite, but made it clear to SEC Country that he’s mislabeled by recruiting services.
“I’m not a safety. That’s the quickest way to piss me off,” said Johnson, who added that Florida is recruiting him as a cornerback.
ESPN and Scout have Johnson rated at corner, but Rivals and 247Sports list him as a safety. He has a 5-star rating from every site except ESPN.
“The reason why they call me a safety is because I’m big,” Johnson said. “But if you look at my film, it’s straight corner. I have the great hips to play it, I have the lateral movement, I have the speed. I have all the corner attributes.
“It’s just that I’m big and they’re not used to seeing big corners. They’re scared to call me a corner because they don’t want to be wrong, but look at Patrick Peterson. I’m in that category.”
At 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, Johnson has the same height and weight as Peterson did in high school. Peterson is a former LSU cornerback who was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Path to the NFL
Like LSU, the Gators have a track record of sending defensive backs to the league. Later this month, three Florida DB’s will join NFL teams for the second straight year.
That has sparked Johnson’s interest.
“Just continuing to show me that they’re breeding DB’s,” Johnson said. “It’s not all about wins and losses. It’s about how they breed your position and are they putting guys in the NFL.
“I’m curious to see how they’re going to replace the guys that left. They got Chauncey (Gardner) up to date and he’s looking great, like he’s going to be a first-round corner.”
UF signed five players at the position in the Class of 2017 to account for the departures of Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson. But Johnson, who plays for Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., is not concerned about Florida’s numbers.
“At Trinity, we have top corners every year,” said Johnson, alluding to former 5-star recruits Kevin Toliver II (LSU) and Shaun Wade (Ohio State). “Being a competitor is what sets you apart from the next man.”
“Competing is something we live for. At Trinity we compete every day. So just because they signed five corners, doesn’t mean that all five will play because I plan on coming here and taking something.”
Johnson attended the Orange & Blue Debut and paid close attention to the game, wanting to get a feel for new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and new secondary coach Corey Bell. The starters held the second-team offense scoreless.
“I love what I saw from the defense,” Johnson said. “They played a lot of press man … seems like they want the long corners inside the dude’s face to challenge the receivers at the line. That’s something very exciting.”
Bell is pursuing Johnson along with linebackers coach Tim Skipper, his area recruiter. Bell coached one of Johnson’s former high school teammates.
“I like him. He’s a real dude,” Johnson said of Bell. “He coached one of my close friends, Raekwon Williams, down there at FAU. He tells me he’s a very good coach.
“Coach Bell tells me I can come here and leave a legacy in my home state. You don’t have to go far (away from home) to go to the league.”
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