ATHENS, Ga. -- Juco defensive tackle Toby Johnson (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson C.C.) took his official visit to Georgia on Friday and left a few days later with a new leader.
“Georgia right now would be my favorite school at the time,” Johnson said. “I am not committed or nothing. I have got a couple more visits I’m going to take but after that I am going to be ready to make my decision. I really don’t have a time frame in mind.”
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound prospect said that it was the coaching staff’s sincerity that has the Bulldogs on top. After suffering a season-ending knee injury, Johnson was worried that the interest level in him might drop.
“It was the best visit so far,” Johnson said. “They just showed me major love even though I have the injury and stuff. Nobody was uptight about the injury. You know how usually you go to a school and everybody is uptight about it, ‘When will you recover?’ and all of that? They didn’t ask me any of that. They told me some exercise I could do during rehab.”
Georgia is not Johnson's only option.
“I am still considering Oklahoma, Auburn, Mississippi State -- I am still considering everybody,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to put anybody out right now with a top five or top ten. I am going to visit Mississippi State. I have a visit set up with Missouri for next week but I am not sure if I will be able to go to that. I have a couple other visits I am going to try to sneak in.”
Johnson has seen other programs back off, not so much in words, but in their approach to him. Georgia did not.
“It was a big relief,” Johnson said. “At first a lot of schools were saying they were not giving up on me. Everybody called and said they weren’t giving up. But I could just tell that at a lot of different schools it was just not the same. I wasn’t their No. 1 priority anymore.”
The talented defensive tackle is still wanted in Athens and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made sure Johnson knew that.
“I was the only uncommitted one that was there. Coach Grantham just showed me too much love. They made me feel like I was still their No. 1 priority. It was just crazy down there.”
The craziness apparently did not stop with Grantham.
“It was kind of crazy that most all of the players down there knew who I was -- all of them basically,” Johnson said. “They took me in. They said the coaches are in their ears about me all the time. I really didn’t have to introduce myself. They knew everything about me like my high school (Banneker High School in College Park, Ga.), where I was originally from, and what junior college I was at. They just knew a lot of stuff about me.”
Georgia hosted 19 of its committed prospects over the weekend as well. Most of them tried to sway Johnson as well.
“They worked on me hard,” Johnson said. “Everybody was talking about how much they needed me and saying stuff like if they had had me they would have won the SEC championship and be getting ready for the national championship.”
Even a sick Mark Richt could not dampen Johnson’s visit to Athens.
“My favorite part of the visit was going over to Mark Richt’s house and getting to meet his family,” Johnson said. “They knew who I was. His wife knew who I was and which game I got hurt in. She said she had wanted to meet me and had heard a lot about me. Coach Richt was sick, too, so we didn’t get a lot of time to hang out.”