Danny Hope did it again. On the eve of his first Big Ten media day he went down to Florida and grabbed us yet another promising recruit from what Lee Corso so affectionately calls, "The Speed State." Let's get to know him.
He's E.J. Johnson, and he is apparently the man with the golden voice (or maybe not). He is a 6'1" 175 pounds safety from Cocoa High in Cocoa, FL. He allegedly has 4.45 speed and we beat out Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Kentucky for his services. He had 8 interceptions last season for Cocoa, who finished 14-1 and won the Class 3A State championship in Florida. Three of those interceptions came in the state title game... in the first half. Their semifinal win came over Miami's Monsignor Pace High, which has long been a pipeline for south Florida talent. He was an all-state selection at safety and Cocoa is already picked as the #54 team in the country by MaxPreps heading into 2009. By comparison, the only team from Indiana that is ranked is Warren Central at #94.
Most importantly, he claims he is ready to contribute immediately at what will definitely be a position of need. All four starters in the defensive backfield will be gone next year. Josh McKinley will be the only player with significant experience at the position, and Johnson will need to put on about 40 pounds to match McKinley's size. If Johnson shifts over to corner he will compete with Charlton Williams and Josh Johnson. Honestly though, the 2010 situation in the secondary is so fluid right now it is hard to say where Johnson will end up, especially since part of it was sacrificed for the sake of this year's dearth of talent at wide receiver.
I did manage to find a little bit of video on Johnson, including from the state championship game, but embedding was disabled. He wears #10 for the Tigers and looks to be a ball-hawking safety the likes of which we haven't seen since Stu Schweigert. He is also versatile, playing a little wide receiver. His only catch was a 58 yard reception against Rockledge, which is featured in the first video link. At about the 1:40 mark he does a good job of blocking for a teammate on a long run. It is also a good sign that a space shuttle launch is featured in that video with our history with NASA. The second video shows his defensive skills with three picks in the state championship game.
Johnson also plays on Cocoa's basketball and track teams, giving him even more of an opportunity to work on his athleticism. I like guys who play basketball that end up as receivers and defensive backs. They know what to do with their bodies while the ball is in the air. Varsity Sports Media gushes over this kid as well.
Once again, this is a good pickups. He hasn't been rated on Rivals or Scout yet, but I expect to come out as a 3-star prospect. It is about the same expectation that I have for recent linebacker recruit William Lucas. Both of these kids want to compete for playing time immediately and they also seem to have a pretty strong focus on academics. Coach Hope can bring on as many of these guys as he wants.