Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Razorbacks hope to sway South Carolina safety pledge
The University of Arkansas is working hard to flip South Carolina safety commitment Jayden Johnson toward the Hogs.
Johnson, 6-2, 205 pounds, of Cedartown, Ga., is expected to be a midterm graduate and an early enrollee in January at his school of choice.
A big target of the Razorbacks for the 2021 class, Johnson received a scholarship offer from Arkansas on April 23.
He announced a top 10 that included Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Virginia in May before he pledged to the Gamecocks in June. The recent firing of Will Muschamp as South Carolina’s coach has created uncertainty.
“I just know Arkansas is on him pretty hot and heavy, I believe,” Cedartown Coach Coach Jamie Abrams said.
Johnson is a key reason why the Bulldogs have reeled off six consecutive victories after losing the first two games of the season.
Cedartown’s 34-7 victory over Central-Carroll last week clinched the Region 7-4A championship for the Bulldogs, the school’s first title since 2001 in Abrams’ first year at the helm.
Johnson and Cedartown will host a first-round game in the Class 4A state playoffs Friday.
“He does a little bit of everything for us,” Abrams said of Johnson. “On offense, he’s lined up at quarterback, he’s played receiver, he plays running back. And defensively, he’s played corner and safety, and he returns kicks and returns punts, and he’s pretty much on all our special teams. He does a little bit of everything. I think that will serve him well as he progresses as a player.”
He’s rushed 48 times for 347 yards and 5 touchdowns, and has 17 receptions for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns in eight games. He has 17 tackles, 3 interceptions, a pass deflection, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.
Johnson, an ESPN three-star prospect, also has returned 7 kickoffs for 128 yards and 2 punts for 12 yards.
His time on the sideline is limited.
“We’re able to rest him a little bit on offense,” Abrams said.
Cedartown is the same school that produced former Georgia and current Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb.
Abrams played high school football and graduated from Rivercrest in eastern Arkansas in 1999. He played three seasons at the University of Arkansas-Monticello.
Johnson’s weight room numbers are usually reserved for high school linemen, not a defensive back. He has a 290-pound bench press, 310 power clean and 475 squat.
With Johnson’s talent and being positioned to go through offseason and spring practice, he’s capable of seeing early playing time in Fayetteville.
“I think he has a very high ceiling,” Abrams said, “He’s very strong weight-room wise. I think his best football is ahead of him, and he’s young. He just turned 17.”
Abrams believes Johnson can also play cornerback at the next level.
“I think he could do either one,” Abrams said. “Especially the guys that are playing the tall corners.”
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