Gainesville’s A.J. Johnson talks North Hall, latest on recruitment

CHANNEL 2 SPORTS ZONE GAME OF THE WEEK

Gainesville linebacker A.J. Johnson poses for his AJC Super 11 portrait. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Gainesville linebacker A.J. Johnson poses for his AJC Super 11 portrait. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

I’m heading over to Gainesville this evening to watch one of the state’s great backyard rivalries as the Red Elephants take on the North Hall Trojans at “The Brickyard.”

It’s the “Channel 2 Sports Zone Game of the Week.” You can catch it live at 7:30 p.m. on WSB’s second digital channel, RTV 2.2 (Comcast 248/Charter 126) or catch the replay on WSB’s Channel 2 at 1 a.m. tonight.

There are a lot of top-notch college prospects I’m looking forward to seeing in action, including North Hall junior wide receiver C.J. Curry (UGA offer) and Gainesville senior defensive tackle Thomas Niles (UCF commitment). But more than anybody I’m excited about finally seeing in person Gainesville linebacker A.J. Johnson.

If you read the AJC regularly you know that the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Johnson was an AJC Super 11 selection this year and he’s one of the state’s top two or three linebackers (Tucker’s James Vaughters and Cook’s Shannon Brown being the others).

Johnson was an absolute wrecking ball on Gainesville’s 14-1 Class AAA state finalist team last year and he promises to have an even greater impact this season as a two-way player for the Red Elephants.

Interestingly, Johnson has already eliminated in-state powers Georgia and Georgia Tech from recruiting consideration.Until fairly recently the Yellow Jackets were in it for him but he has never seriously considered the Bulldogs.

“I don’t understand it really,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller told me. “Georgia’s a long story. The previous defensive staff [headed by Willie Martinez] didn’t like him as a linebacker. [New defensive coordinator Todd] Grantham came in and said he loved A.J. as a linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme but by then he already moved on I guess.”

Johnson actually committed to Tennessee as a junior but decommitted after head coach Lane Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron took their act west to Southern Cal. Johnson did not immediately consider the Trojans as an option, mainly because of the distance. But he recently re-established communication with the coaches and says now he may give them a look.

“I talked to him a could of days ago,” Johnson said of Orgeron, who was recruiting him for the Vols. “He said he wanted me to take a minute to come out there to visit them. I probably will.”

Johnson’s recruitment had been relatively quiet this summer but picked up again after he was named to the AJC Super 11 team in August. The Super 11 represents the 11 best high school football players in the state.

“I wouldn’t call it busy but I’ve been around a little,” Johnson said of recruiting. “I’ve been up to Clemson since the season started and I plan to go to Tennessee and Florida. I’m probably going to take some official visits during the season. I’ll probably take officials to Miami, Clemson, USC, Florida and Tennessee.”

That said, Johnson said it is basically coming down to Florida and Tennessee for him. “Pretty much those two,” he said.

Nevertheless, Johnson is in no hurry to make a decision.

“I’m not sure when I’ll do it; it could be any time,” he said. “I don’t want to pin myself down as far as a time. Whenever I get that feeling I’ll know.”

In the meantime, Johnson said he has nothing but North Hall on his mind. The Trojans are the A-number-one rival of Gainesville as the schools are located only a few miles apart, they play in the same region and have alternated region championships almost every other year.

This will be Johnson’s third season participating as a starter in the game, which this year matches a pair of 1-1 teams.

“It’s been a rivalry for a long, long time,” Johnson said. “When you play in this game, the stands are packed out and it is loud. We have to get in there, take care of business and get out.”

North Hall is very likely to see No. 45 line up as the “Wildcat” in Gainesville’s no-huddle spread offense. Johnson took his first snaps out of the formation in their last game two weeks ago. He responded with nine carries for 76 yards (8.4 ypc) and a touchdown in the 31-22 win over White County.

Playing offense was Johnson’s idea.

“After the [40-19] loss to Buford, A.J. came into my office and he sat there for like two minutes and didn’t say anything,” Miller said. “Finally, he speaks up. ‘Can you get me involved in the offense?’ I said, ‘Sure. I thought you’d never ask.’”

Said Johnson: “It’s just football to me. I just like being on the field and doing whatever I can to help us win.”

Just showing up is a pretty good start.

64 comments Add your comment

Flo-Ri-Duh!

September 17th, 2010
12:09 pm

UGA needs LB’s… A.J. should reconsider before going to Tnnessee who is on probation and has reduced scholarships and reduced talent. Meyer’s heart is no longer in it at Florida and I expect him to move on after this season. Richt isn’t going anywhere.

DDPO

September 17th, 2010
12:35 pm

And why does his coach not understand on why he wouldn’t want to go to one of the state schools?

Maybe he should support his players and put his personal preferences aside? I’m sure Johnson and Richt will still provide him some tickets to some games.

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
12:38 pm

unfortunately uga burnt that bridge with A.J. awhile back..seen the kid play several times and he is outstanding…yes, the dawgs could go after him, but it will probably be a lost cause…they pretty much did the same thing with Blake Sims over at gainesville high…As much as i usually defend the uga coaching staff…i will say that they blundered with these kids…i do know that you cant blame the new defensive coaching staff for the past, but spending time trying to recruit this young man would more than likely be a waste at this….I don’t have all the facts, perhaps the dawgs knew something we didn’t or don’t, but as close to gainesville is to athens, its a shame that these guys didn’t get more of a look..I will say right now they are going to be missing out on a good one in the young man from White County who has committed to Kentucky…Of course the dawgs are doing fine in the recruiting it appears and we surely can’t sign or oversign as some teams appear to be willing to do, but i hate that some very good locals are going elsewhere…

DDPO

September 17th, 2010
12:38 pm

Yeah. Meyer’s heart is no longer in the game? Idiot…

UF has won 17 out of teh last 20 games against UGA. And that’s with 3 different coaches. I think A.J. can make an informed decision on wehre he wants to play.

ryan

September 17th, 2010
12:39 pm

Flo RI Duh your right i just do not know why Grantham will offer this kid maybe he has some baggage but he lives only 1 hour a way from Athens the way economy is a lot kids are staying instate

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
12:49 pm

ryan,..Grantham may try and offer, but as i said the dawgs pretty much burnt that bridge with a couple of players from Gainesville…i’m not saying the coach shouldn’t try and he would be great in the 3-4 IMO, but i just don’t think we can recover from the previous coaching staff’s misevaluation of this young man…i hope i could be wrong, but don’t think so….

GTAdam

September 17th, 2010
12:53 pm

The way I see it, anyone that is that interested in being involved with Lame Kitten and Ed “crazy” Orgeron…that’s all you really need to know. I don’t think either of the in state schools should fret not signing this kid.

As for top LBs in the state, Jabari Hunt-Days should be considered one of the top in state this year. Dude is a beast and is going to be an outstanding college player.

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
1:07 pm

Interesting quotes from Coach Meyer regarding winning games and his program being perceived as a “dirty program”"..See the AJC article…also, of note that may be of some interes to everyone…I don’t know all the details, but according to some info i heard on a local sports talk show yesterday..Coach Meyer had kicked a young man a few seasons back off the team and evidently the young man had some serious issues and i believe he eventuually he took his own life which is very sad…according to what i heard Coach Meyer may be taking some time to decide how he can help Rainiey turn things around and by not kicking him off the team at this point would be well served..I just though i would pass that along, if anyone has additional info please share it…but everyone seems to think for the most part he should be kicked off the team, and perhaps he should, but i can see where if you been involved with a past incident as Coach Meyer was that it puts it in another perspective…and i would hope people that want some of these players kicked off the team for things will realize that alot of thought should go into it before you make a rash decision…

Douglas

September 17th, 2010
1:13 pm

Wow…Martinez screws up everything. Glad he is gone.

Douglas

September 17th, 2010
1:25 pm

Enter your comments here

ryan

September 17th, 2010
1:25 pm

I was looking at the ESPN recruiting 150 Ray Drew has trimmed his list UGA is in the lead for Drew i did not see FSU with his new choices .

Gville Fan

September 17th, 2010
1:29 pm

This guy can actually tackle someone, and does not get into trouble. That is the reason Ga. has not offered him. He will actually get a college degree, and not get into to any trouble, plus Ga. does not recruit players from Gainesville High.

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
1:30 pm

Ryan, i think if we don’t mess this one up,Drew will be a dawg, of course you don’t know until the end…but i do recall some interesting remarks from Mr. Lemay that would lead you to believe that Drew will be a dawg…but we’ve seen how things can change in the recruiting world…

ryan

September 17th, 2010
1:40 pm

I know dawgster i am cautiously hopeful that we land Drew but after the Rodgers deal and Wilder Jr story but i don’t think Drew is that type of person .

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

September 17th, 2010
1:41 pm

Wow! Willie still letting the other team score and he’s not even at UGA. He might be the worst talent evaluater. Those seniors last year(with few exceptions) were a joke.

JT

September 17th, 2010
1:45 pm

I’m with GTAdam. Any kid who would give Kiffin and Orgeron anything more than the time of day is not worth losing sleep over however talented he may be.

ATLDawg, ya dig?

September 17th, 2010
1:53 pm

Chip, can you put together an article on the UGA – gainesville high thing? It seems like Georgia is not only not picked by these kids, but it seems like they’re not even in the running – Blake Sims, Jones, who’s tearing it up for Notre Dame, A.J. Johnson. Is there something going on we don’t know about?

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
2:05 pm

G’ville Fan…just to clarify some of your remarks, Chris Carpenter, Damon Evans(ok don’t give the dawgs a hard time about this one), there have been others over the years, and i will agree that in the last few years we have been slack in that area…Of course for several years the talent at Gainesville High had not been what had been in the past, but Coach Miller has that program doing pretty good right now and i hope that the dawgs will continue to look Gainesville’s way.. the dawgs have offered a wide receiver from North Hall and also the young DE from East Hall, so they are making their presence know, but they did seem to drop the ball with Blake Sims and A.J…even the Jones kid that signed at Notre Dame, but i don’t think he had that big of interest in the dawgs anyway…Also, just for your info regarding degress..i believe i saw where Coach Richt’s graduation rate was only second to Vandy in football players on target to graduate…just thought you should know that many, mnay football players from the dawgs have graduated under Coach Richt’s watch…

RxDawg

September 17th, 2010
2:06 pm

Well thanks for the update Chip. Just as you promised. I wonder why Willie didn’t think he’d make a good LB? I’d like to know specificly what they look for, and what Johnson didn’t have. It’s too bad AJ wasn’t receptive to Coach Grantham but I guess it’s probably for the best anyway.

ryan

September 17th, 2010
2:12 pm

Grantham is going hard after edge players DE s UGA lacks depth in that department and that why you see UGA focusing on Drew and Dickson .

SmyrnaMan

September 17th, 2010
2:55 pm

Plenty of playing time available at Tennessee

jimmymack

September 17th, 2010
2:57 pm

we need lb’s.uga need’s to make a push for this kid

SmyrnaMan

September 17th, 2010
3:01 pm

Just committed to the Vols!

V,B!

williams

September 17th, 2010
3:25 pm

Reports today say he committed to Tennessee.

joe

September 17th, 2010
3:33 pm

Scout’s college page has him committing to UT today, too bad for the Gators…

Orangebutt

September 17th, 2010
3:34 pm

Uh….Flo??? I hate to break it to you but Tennessee isn’t on probation and has had zero schollies taken away. Chances are that once the NCAA is done poking around, we’ll be just fine. At least you can feel confident now that AJ won’t incarcerated since he’s not going to Florida….ya know?

ryan

September 17th, 2010
3:37 pm

He never decommited from the Vols he just wanted to see what was out there that why UGA focused elsewhere .

robodawg

September 17th, 2010
3:38 pm

Take a visit to Athens, give UGA a look. We will feature LBs.

DooleyNoted

September 17th, 2010
3:51 pm

Great get for Vols. Vol fans are finding out quickly why Georgia fans loved Vince. Derrick is a class act and will take UT back to respectability if given enough time.

TheTaxJacket

September 17th, 2010
3:53 pm

*** Nesbitt for Heismen ***

(((( 45 – 42 ))))

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
4:50 pm

according to reports out of athens, Caleb King, probably will not play and if he does it will be very little…ankle still not right….this doesn’t help…Ealey and Thomas will have to step it up..Maybe Coach Bobo will come up with some passing combinations..Maybe throw some to your tight ends..no word yet on AJ, but i’m not expecting much, maybe reducing it to 3 games…go dawgs

SSIgator

September 17th, 2010
4:52 pm

Why go to UGA, they havnt had a undefeated season in bout 30 years.

GO GATORS

76-DAWG

September 17th, 2010
4:56 pm

As much as I like CMR he really screwed up letting his personal friendship with Martinez override common sense and whether Martinez was getting the job done. I had been calling for Martinez to get fired 3 year ago. CMR was evaluating performance by Martinez with blinders on and hoping everybody else was delusional. The reason the decision to put up with a horrible defensive coordinator so long is so devastating is when you don’t get rid of bad coaches it affect recruiting and you’re team suffers for YEARS . The same thing is happening right now with Bobo. Mike Bobo will never make it as an offensive coordinator. I don’t care if he stays on as a coach. He’s just not coordinator material.
Colleges give coaches one year contracts for a reason. If you aren’t getting the job done it’s time to try someone else. CMR needs to do his job and separate his personal ways with what the man in charge has to do sometimes ,even though unpleasant , to get the job. done.

leroy

September 17th, 2010
4:59 pm

This article about Johnson is way too long and a waste of space. As soon as you said he had eliminated UGA and GT the article is finished. Don’t give a turncoat fink any more publicity. The AJC forgets who their main readers are. Out of state and out of mind.

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
5:04 pm

76Dawg don’t neccessary agree with you completely, but i too have some concerns with Coach Bobo..as far as a QB coach i think he is fine and he is a fine individual and loves UGA…however, i’m kind in agreement or at least i am beginning to see that as a OC he doesn’t seem to use the players to the skills that they have…Tight ends is our strength and yet that seems to have disappeared from our attack for the most part….i’m not going to panic because of one game, but i have seen a pattern and lets just see how the season plays out…This offense has the players capable of producing points…against any defense…

Big Mac

September 17th, 2010
5:46 pm

Don’t get me wrong, he’s talented, but I just don’t see AJ as SEC-good. I think he’s overrated because he was a really good player on a great ‘09 team. But I guess we’ll see who’s right when he plays in college.

Vol-'til-I-Fall

September 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

Chuck Smith >>> Ed “The Drunk” Orgeron.

TampaGator

September 17th, 2010
6:25 pm

Flo-Ri-Duh…..

In your deams with your “his heart is not in it” comment about Meyer. There isn’t anyone associated with the U of F administration, coaching staff, or in GatorNation who thinks that about Meyer. I know a lot of Georgia fans are dreaming and wishing it were true. By the way, Meyer said today that he is sick of his players messing up and he is now moving on without Rainey. Sounds like Rainey is permanently kicked off the team….Meyer stated he is no longer with the program.

Dawgster….

The kid (a very talented cornerback) who took his life a few years back (and was not a Meyer recruit by the way…he was Zooked to Florida)…took his life a year or so after he left the U of F program. He had transferred to another small school in Florida and was playing there when he took his own life. It had nothing to do with Florida, but Meyer did say at the time that he was saddened to hear about what happened to the kid. I believe it had more to do with a woman who had his kids, money issues, and the use of drugs.

Saint Richt

September 17th, 2010
6:59 pm

Surprised you didn’t take this story down Chippy…………….HOMER…….

bitter you can call me A.J.

September 17th, 2010
9:42 pm

rocky top yuul always bee gool ole rocky toper, rockey top tennersa, see im well on my way too a DA’ gree, gonna get with my hero da’slick rogers. gonna get some hill top p—- and eat some hogg jawls yaaaaaw!!! weeear big orangge yaaaw.

poopdawg

September 17th, 2010
9:58 pm

tampa gator, Meyer says he’s no longer with the program translates to we will see after he sits out due to his concussion. The Dawgs don’t want a LB who doesn’t want to be a Dawg. I do not buy the burnt bridge BS, there’s more to that story. Like his ego was not stroked quickly enough.

RomeDawg

September 17th, 2010
10:47 pm

I get the feeling Johnson prefers a coach with style over substance, given the fact he liked Lane Kiffin. Anyone who would actually consider USC after seeing what he done to UT is not using the ‘ol cranium.

dawgster

September 17th, 2010
11:04 pm

TampaGator…thanks for the info…I heard this from Chuck Oliver on 680 the fan shile they were discussing Rainey and the calls for Coach Meyer to kick off the team…I think Chuck must have thought it was Coach Meyer and his point was that you don’t want to make a rash decision and give up on a kid too soon, and where you might try and do all you can for him before you make a lifechanging decision to boot him…I was trying to follow that up by saying if that was true regarding Coach Meyer then people should understand how a Coach would be very cautious when making that type of decision especially if you wondered if you could have done more…Evidently Chuck Oliver had some facts wrong….He made these comments during the 1:00 to 3:00 hour of the talk show….Just wanted you to know that i was trying to defend Coach Meyer based on what i heard and didn’t think people should rush to judgement…I feel the same way when people bash Coach Richt and want him to kick every kid off the team before they know what the facts are….

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
1:14 am

Chip it is LATE but I have DirecTV so now I get to watch the N. Hall v Gainesville game. I hope you are on top of your game for this broadcaast. I hate both teams. I went to Riverside Military Academy and we played both these teams and E Hall and Johnson too. Chris Carpenter Nailed me with an inside curve. He as you know left Ganiseville ot be a HATED Dawg then the Cards. I will say this he does have 1 hot wire though.

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
1:17 am

HOT WIFE. sorry it is late. I did enjoy the Carver v Lagrange game watching Crowell run.

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
1:34 am

Nice N. Hall TD pass for the score.

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
1:54 am

Gainesville is looking better on the field but N. Hall is winning and just got the turnover on a funble.

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
1:56 am

sorry gainesville is 7 and n hall is 6 my bad.

5150 P.O.A.D

September 18th, 2010
2:24 am

Chip WTF with all the high school football scores in the 45+ point range. Did all the teams in Ga forget how to play D or what?