Tennessee seems intent on going back to Cali.
The Vols have offered a scholarship to two California prospects just this week. The latest was defensive end D.J. Johnson from Luther Burbank (Sacramento, Calif.). The four-star prospect received his scholarship offer on Wednesday. Johnson said he first spoke to Tennessee’s coaches on Tuesday. He said the Vols offered him a scholarship after watching his highlight video.
“Honestly I’m not sure how they found me,” the 6-foot-5, 240-pound prospect said.
It probably wasn’t hard. Johnson is the No. 13 weak-side defensive end in the country and the No. 19 prospect in California. Tennessee also offered a scholarship to offensive lineman Kanan Ray from Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) earlier this week.
However, the offer to Ray made sense considering he is the nephew of former Vols linebacker Judd Granzow, who played on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team and is also from California.
Offering Johnson is a bit more bold since there is no known connection between him and the Vols. Tennessee has only two scholarship players on their roster that they signed from a California high school: defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie and quarterback Sheriron Jones. McKenzie was a natural fit since his father and uncle both played at Tennessee. Jones filled a position of need in the 2015 class.
The Vols will never live solely off of California talent because of the obvious distance from Knoxville, Tenn. However, they once had a significant presence there with key contributors like receiver Anthony Miller, linebacker Kevin Burnett, quarterback Casey Clausen, receiver Donte’ Stallworth, running back Arian Foster, quarterback Tyler Bray and junior college receiver Von Pearson all hailing from the state.
Tennessee has long taken pride in having a name it could sell nationally. After improvement under Butch Jones, the Vols could be approaching that again.
“I know it’s a great team,” Johnson said when asked what he knew about Tennessee.
Johnson said distance from home won’t be a factor in his recruitment and he intends to visit Tennessee. However, the competition will be stiff. Johnson already has 21 scholarship offers.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m just kind of kicking back and enjoying all the love I’m getting.”
Nothing like California love. That’s what the Vols are hoping they’ll find on the recruiting trail.