Tennessee’s firing of Derek Dooley could help UGA’s chances of landing the nation’s No. 1-ranked prospect out of junior college.
Tennessee and UGA have been considered the frontrunners for Toby Johnson, a 5-star defensive tackle from Hutchinson junior college in Kansas. Johnson hasn’t officially named any leaders.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder from Atlanta’s Banneker High School was unsure how Dooley’s termination would affect his long-term relations with Rocky Top.
“I don’t really know what’s going on at Tennessee, but if they keep everybody else at Tennessee on the coaching staff …” Johnson told the AJC on Sunday night.
“I know about the Derek Dooley situation. That really doesn’t have anything to do with my decision or anything, unless Coach Staley doesn’t stay there. It just depends on who all stays and things like that.
“But I haven’t counted Tennessee out.”
Coach Staley is Brandon Staley, Johnson’s former coach at Hutchinson — who was hired at Tennessee as a graduate assistant last year as part of a rumored package deal that also involved three other Hutchinson prospects – 5-star WR Cordarrelle Patterson (who was roommates with Johnson last year and signed with Tennessee over UGA; Patterson was last year’s No. 1-ranked JC player in the nation) and DT Ben Bradley (who is roommates with Johnson this year at the JC and has committed to Tennessee). Tennessee officially denied the package deal accusation last year, and Johnson told the AJC a few months ago he will make an independent decision.
What did Johnson think about Dooley’s firing? “I was kind of surprised,” he said. “Before Coach Staley recruited me for Tennessee, (Tennessee wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw) recruited me. As long as there’s still coaches at Tennessee that I know … and my roommate (Bradley) stays committed and stuff like that, then I’m keeping Tennessee in there.
“I will let everybody know if I decide to take Tennessee off my list. As of right now, I’m not.”
Johnson took an unofficial visit to Nebraska this past weekend, and has only taken one official visit – to Oklahoma. He will take a recruiting trip to UGA in December, and may even show up for an unofficial this weekend with the Bulldogs for the Georgia Tech game.
“If I end up coming home (to Atlanta) for Thanksgiving, I will go over to Georgia,” Johnson said.
What about his three other official visits? Johnson will likely go to Tennessee, depending on how the coaching situation is resolved. He was supposed to go to Mississippi State on Dec. 1, and may still visit the SEC school but on another date. And it looks like he won’t be touring Ole Miss.
“I don’t know about Ole Miss, it’s just not a school that … I prefer not talking about it,” Johnson said. “(Recruiting coordinator Chris Kiffin) and I, we haven’t been talking on a regular basis like we were. I don’t know.”
Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month, and said he was scheduled to under surgery on Dec. 13. Johnson hopes to play next season but has a redshirt season available in case he needs to sit out and rehabilitate. He will transfer to a four-year college in January, with three seasons to play two in football. Johnson is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall JC prospect by 247sports but could drop in the next rankings due to his injury.
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