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2017 Recruit Notebook: DE D.J. Johnson

A 4-star recruit and Under Armour All-American, Sacramento (CA) Luther Burbank DE D.J. Johnson is a top end talent that joins Miami’s deep DL.

4-star Under Armour All-American DE D.J. Johnson is already used to running out through the smoke.

In this installment of the Recruit Notebook, we meet the player with the most scholarship offers of anyone in the 2017 class, and a world of talent to go along with them: DE D.J. Johnson.


Games are won in the trenches, and Miami has done a good job in this class to add top end players to DL, such as Johnson. A 4-star recruit from Sacramento (CA) Luther Burbank HS, Johnson is a beast at 6’5” 240lbs. Johnson has the frame to add weight while still keeping his explosiveness, a scary prospect for the opposition.

The best player in the history of Luther Burbank, Johnson has the distinction of having the most scholarship offers of any player in the 2017 recruiting class. Once they started rolling in, they wouldn’t stop. Those aren’t empty offers either; Johnson earned them with his high level play.

In his HS career, Johnson, was 1st team All-League twice, Defensive MVP of his league as a senior, 2nd team All-State (2x), and had more than 80 TFLs and 35 sacks. So, he’s big, and fast, and strong, and good at football. That’ll work for me.

Recruiting Ranking

On the 247sports composite, Johnson is a 4-star prospect, the #6 weakside DE in this class, the #9 player in the State of California, and the #72 player in this class overall. Not only that, but recruiting analysts who had not seen Johnson in person were buoyed in their ranking of him by his performance at the Under Armour All-American game. And I quote from 247sports National Director of Scouting Barton Simmons (Note: he’s referencing 247’s rankings in this paragraph, not the 247 composite, which I use for my recruiting pieces):

One of the biggest enigmas during this recruiting cycle for us has been California edge defender DJ Johnson. We haven't had a chance to see much of the athletic defensive end in person before the Under Armour Game. He's got strong film and he's going across the country to play at Miami but how would he perform in an elite all-star setting? He was really good and showed all the upside we suspected he had. Johnson moves from No. 145 to No. 69 nationally.

Johnson, the most offered player in the 2017 recruiting class, committed to Miami over 99 (!!!) other offers from damn near every team in America, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Washington, and Southern California.

Johnson as a player

Johnson is a dynamic player, with great size and build at 6’5” 240lbs. One of his best physical traits is his quickness. He can routinely be seen using sheer speed to run around HS OLs on his highlights. Johnson has the frame to add weight and still maintain his explosiveness at the next level.

While he played DE exclusively in HS, Johnson played both DE and DT in the Under Armour All-American game. While I think his best and future position is at DE, Johnson showed well when he moved inside at the UAAAG. The Canes may experiment with doing the same thing, moving Johnson inside in certain situations or packages.

For another look at Johnson as a player, here’s an eval from a former HS and collegiate DL:

The highest rated commit along the DL for the Miami in Sacramento native D.J. Johnson, who played at Luther Burbank for high school ball. Nicknamed "Freak Nasty" what popped out immediately from watching film on Johnson is his first step quickness. Often times he will beat the blocker off the weakside with pure speed (little to no hand moves incorporated). RELENTLESS PURSUIT! Countless times the ballcarrier will be 10 yards (and one time 20 yards) away from him, then puts on the afterburners to make the tackle. Doesn't assume that teammates will make the tackle, hustles over to deliver punishment when necessary.

Standing at 6'5” and weighing 240 pounds Johnson appeared to be a man among boys at the high school level. Often times you would see him manhandle opponents on special teams, dropping them on their backs or just enforcing his will to direct them away out of the picture.

Plays to his body type, meaning he plays like he both looks like Tarzan and plays like him too.

At the collegiate level I expect to see Johnson round out his game. He should develop some counter moves for those games where a speed rush won't do it alone, as well as continue to develop his hand use. Johnson will also improve employing speed to power (starting with a rush to the outside of the tackle, only to hard step inside and bull rush the blocker taking him off-guard at hopefully off his feet as well) and vice versa.

2017 Outlook

Miami has plenty of depth along the DL with the change in scheme under DC Manny Diaz. Every contributing player returns up front, led by Freshman All-American Joseph Jackson, Demetrius Jackson, Trent Harris, and Chad Thomas at DE. With that many quality players returning up front, it will be a battle for Johnson (and the other DL signees) to fight their way up the depth chart for snaps.

Chances for a redshirt: 3/10

Johnson has the size, athleticism, and skill to make an impact as a freshman. He might not be an All-American this year as Joseph Jackson was in 2016, but I would expect to see Johnson on the field in 2017.

That’s it for this installment of the Recruit Notebook.

Go Canes